I had always wanted to visit Robben Island, i am glad that i finally managed to visit this historic prison when i did, not because it felt good to be a tourist, but it was an enlightening moment for me as an activist. During the white supremacist and racist regime many South African anti apartheid activists and political leaders were in captivity in this hell hole were they endured unimaginable inhumane treatment.
Robben island can symbolise a lot of things, it can be a place of pain , struggle and obviously invokes anger and sadness but it can also be a place of hope and reconciliation .
My visit to this prison, made me reflect on how sometimes we are seemingly ‘free’, yet we are locked up in our own mental and emotional Robben Islands….
I have been feeling the urge to write lately,i had a lot of things to reflect on and write about yet each time i attempted to, it just wouldn’t come out, what i know is a lot of the scribbling and scribing have been taking place in my head.
Prisoner of the self..
No one can claim to know an individual more than they know themselves. As people we often engage with the self , sometimes deeply often times we have secrets that we share with only ourselves, we soliloquies,analyse and question things and reach conclusions. There are times when we ease the burden if we share, but sometimes you just find yourself locked up..
There are many things that can imprison us to the detriment of our lives. Often times these prisons fuel self hate, anger , bitterness and self-pity. As we continue to wallow in these dungeons our conscience pulling us down, we build walls around ourselves, live in solitary confinement and sentence ourselves to life in mental imprisonment.
The locks to these cells, are mostly negative forces, it could be fear of both the known and unknown, traumatic experiences, socialisation, religious and cultural beliefs, norms and attitudes that prompt feelings of shame, guilt and anger.
Some of us find ourselves imprisoned at all levels, it could be prisoners in bodies that we despise, systems that oppress and undermine our existence, societies that condemn and denigrate us, often times we are taken prisoner in spaces where we feel unwelcome, or relationships where we feel unloved. Even our own cultural religious beliefs and attitudes sometimes feed the ignorance that shackles us.
At this moment i am at loggerheads with the self, wondering what it takes to achieve liberation of selfhood. Maybe Leslie Fernberg was right in saying when we liberate our bodies we win half the fight, then we liberate our minds we are on the road to achieve liberation of selfhood..(Transgender warriors…1997)
Or Perhaps what i need is the zeal and strength of Autshumato the Khoi Khoi tribesman who in a quest to free himself fled from the damned Robben Island prison, and earned himself a place in history for being the first and last person to successfully escape.
One thing for sure, whether one chooses the Fernberg or the Autshumato way, breaking away from any form of prison will not be without struggle….