Located off the South Western tip of South Africa, Robben Island is an unlikely place to find solace. Used for centuries as a prison and center for slave trade, the island has been the long term “home” of political prisoners and dissidents including Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma, and Bishop Njongonkulu Ndungane. Closed since 1996, the island and prison serve now as a reminder of South Africa’s past. Located in the bay of Cape Town South Africa is visited almost daily by tourists and visitors.
While not a long term retreat, it does serve as a reminder that the struggle for freedom as well as the uniqueness of individuals can sometimes be jeopardized in the name of community, majority, and strength. Balancing the needs of humanity against the singular autonomy of the individual sometimes becomes less a balancing act and more a tug of war.
In particular to those who seek meditation on human struggle may visit the Lime Quarry. The quarry was used as a work assignment year round for prisoners. At the entrance stands a small stone cairn. Each of these stones was placed there by a prisoner at the first reunion on the island. As the years have passed, former prisoners to visit the island (now free) have added to the pile.