Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

early robben island thoughts.

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totally crashed yesterday. hit the wall finally which means at about 4pm i went to ‘lay down’ and woke up at 8.30p. ahhh. seriously needed that.

so far what has really had an impact on me besides meeting the groups and bandi biko has been the trip to robben island. robben island is where the former prison where south african political prisoners were held, including nelson mandela.  a few of us went on the ‘tour’ on a bus, with a tour driver speaking about the island (there is/was also a leper colony there among a few other things). then we got to the prison. i saw where mandela stayed and countless other prisoners. that kind of got me.

however what really got me were that former prisoners were leading the tours. we were able to talk with a man who was incarcerated at that prison for years. he was amazing, a goldmine of stories and so humble, seemingly eager to answer questions.

after the official tour i introduced myself and asked him a few questions. i asked him about leadership (as this project is a about leadership) and we had an awesome conversation about that. then i asked him what is that like for him to lead tours where he was once a prisoner. he told me he kind of needs to do it. that it is therapeutic for him. at first he told me he just stood there in front of everyone not knowing what to say, feeling a little shy about talking to a group of people (ah yes, public speaking) but then he said after awhile people started asking questions and he started telling stories. and now he is truly amazing, telling us his facts and then stories. i mean, amazing. i mean, this man is one of many who is responsible for ending apartheid and he was actually shy to speak in front of a crowd. what struck me in that moment was his humanness.

another man who worked on the ferry boat to and from the island was also a former prisoner. he wasn’t as calm. i asked him a lot of questions (again, i’ll have the audio, their photos and more info about them, names etc., get his direct words up) one of them being how is it he can work as a guide for robben island. he told me he cold not work on the island, it is too much for him but he likes to be near it and some of the other former prisoners. it helps him work through it.

Written by amandakoster

December 14, 2009 at 4:38 am

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