The Robben Island Museum is not limited to telling a story; It has symbolic importance not only for South African society with its great diversity of cultures, but for the whole world. Beyond its emotional history, which dates back to the mid-seventeenth century, it is a symbol of justice, human rights and sacrifice.
As twentieth-century anti-apartheid activists have captured the prominence of this story, few people realize that the history of the Robben Island Prison Museum as a prison facility began 350 years ago with Autshumato, a member of the Khoekhoe , an indigenous group already disappeared. The first Dutch settler who came to the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck, depended on Autshumato as an interpreter, especially for the cattle trade with which the colonial settlement was based. The cultural misinterpretations resulted in the confinement of the interpreter on Robben Island, but he escaped and thus became the only prisoner on Robben Island who has achieved it.
The visit to the Robben Island Museum, lasting three and a half hours, begins at Puerta de Mandela on the Victoria and Alfred docks of Cape Town, where you can see various exhibitions on the island. After a half-hour ferry ride, visitors join a guided tour of the maximum security prison, often by the hand of a former political prisoner with a personal experience of the centre. Throughout a 45-minute bus ride around the island, its history as a mental hospital, military base, and leprosarium is unravelled. You can also explore the harbour of Murray Bay, with a Muslim sanctuary and the museum shop.
In addition to its history, the fauna and flora of Robben Island is extremely interesting, and its conservation is another of the museum’s objectives. On the island there are 132 species of birds, some of them in danger of extinction, as well as small herds of antelopes.
The Robben Island Museum has been declared a World Heritage Site and is part of the South African national heritage.
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