Museums, Sunsets and Mandela

Yesterday was fairly low key. We forced ourselves to leave the building though neither of us really felt like it. We decided to take the bus back to the scene of the crime and see if the folks at the tourist place had received a lost cell phone. Though we knew that the chance was slim, we took it anyway. Of course, there was no cell phone. Nor was it at the other tourist office, nor at the last restaurant that we had stopped at before the “incident”. We stopped for lunch at the Tiger’s Milk. You may recall that Richard had posted some beer pictures from this place in an earlier post. The food is good and the staff is wonderful. Our waiter, when learning of our recent “incident”, took us from the restaurant, across the street to a shop that sold used phones and told us that this was a good guy. If he didn’t have a phone for us, we could try another place that he recommended. Other than that, do not go anywhere else. This service and kindness was a blessing at a time that we needed it most. We never did catch his name but we are thankful to him for renewing our faith in humankind.

From there, we headed to the District Six Museum. As I am sure all of you know, South Africa was torn apart for years by apartheid. Though we in the west only learned of it during the 60’s, laws were being put into place as early as the 20th century to separate the races. District Six was a melting pot of cultures and colors. The neighborhood included blacks, coloreds, Jews, Polish, Indians, and Russians to name a few. It was decided in the 40’s that this area should be a whites only area and the process began to relocate the people that lived here. People that had the means (mostly the whites) were able to move themselves to areas of their choice. However, many families of blacks were relocated to the rural areas where there were no jobs, infrastructure or schooling for their children. Imagine, how you would feel if men with bulldozers show up in your neighborhood, come into your house, start loading your belongings onto a truck and move you to an area where you know no one and do not have a job. It kind of makes losing a cell phone seem a little insignificant.

From there we went to the Jewish Museum. While most Jews came to North America to escape religious persecution from Europe during the 1800’s, 40,000 came to South Africa. They established themselves as merchants and traders and are part of the fabric that weaves Cape Town together.

We headed down to the wharf to catch the bus to Signal Hill to watch the sunset. We had a few extra minutes so popped into the Two Oceans Museum. We was able to get some more penquin pictures and though they are not nearly as plentiful as the ones that we saw at Boulders Beach, it gives you an idea of their cuteness.

The view from Signal Hill is quite spectacular. From there you can see the harbour, the beaches, and of course Table Mountain. The mountain was covered with the famed Tablecloth (clouds) for most of the day which added to the beauty of the landscape. Many people come up to the Hill bringing picnic baskets and blankets to watch the sunset . We had bought a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of wine for the occasion. We sat on the hill eating our sandwiches, drinking our wine and watching as the views around us faded into the dusk. Though it wasn’t a Manitoba sunset, it was quite beautiful. A lovely evening.

Today we went to Robben Island. This island has had many uses over the centuries but is most famous for being the prison in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. The 20 minute boat ride dropped us at the pier on the Island. From there we hopped on a bus that gave us a 45 minute tour of the island. Our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about the island and its prison. I cannot even begin to tell you all of the facts that he gave us. The island closed as a prison in 1996 and opened as a museum at that time. We saw the quarry that Mandela and his prison mates laboured in under the hot African sun day after day. This was the only time that the prisoners would be together without the confinements of the prison. From Mandela’s book, A Long Walk to Freedom (a very good read), he mentioned that this is where he and his fellow political prisoners shared their ideas of a better future for their people. The highlight of the tour was a walk through the actual prison and a look at Mandela’s cell – which surprisingly looked much like the rest of them. This tour was given by an actual inmate that had been incarcerated in the prison for 5 years for inciting a protest rally while still in highschool. He was very businesslike about the tour and did not appear to harbour any ill will to his captors.

We enjoyed this tour very much. It gave us just a glimpse of the turmoil that has been raging for many years in this country. Though South Africa has come a long way since the ending of apartheid 20 years ago, there is still a lot of work to do. There is much begging and crime in the streets, homelessness and poverty. One of our black Uber drivers said that jobs were scarce and that she had been looking for a long time. However, one of our white Uber drivers said that the blacks had to get over it, that there were lots of jobs and they just needed to start working for a living. So, as you can see, problems of race, poverty, and unemployment are not exclusive to North America.

Below is the plaque that is outside of the old church that is now the District 6 Museum.

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The penguin and the sunset:

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The maximum security centre on Robben Island:

Our Tour Guide Jama:

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Below is a picture of one of the communal cells:

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In cell block A where some of the political prisoners were they have a picture of an inmate that at one time occupied that cell along with a reflection of the man. We visited many of those cells in cell block A, below is an example of one of the many.

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On our way to cell block B where Nelson Mandela was held:

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Cell Block B and Nelson Mandela’s Cell:

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The reunion of the political prisoners after the Island was turned into a museum.

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Col and I at Robben Island:

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