With Mandela Day this Thursday 18th July, and beloved Madiba’s weakened health on our minds, being introduced to RIACT yesterday can’t be a coincindence.
Robben island plays a significant part in South Africa’s history, as its here in the Maximum Security prison that Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars. Our current President Jacob Zuma as well as many other recognised leaders such as Robert Sobukwe, Tokyo Sexwale, Walter Sisulu and many more also imprisoned here during the apartheid era.
I have made numerous visits to the island over the years, even spent a night in the guest house once, which allowed an opportunity to really get a feel for a place that was home to many brave men unjustly sentenced here for opposing a racist government.
When the old prison fence was taken down in 2010 and replaced with a new one to mark the 20 year anniversary of Mandela’s release, a local artist Chris Swift noticed this and that it was destined for landfill. Chris arranged to rescue this valuable heritage to the mainland, where he spent the better part of 3 months processing the material to use in art exhibitions which went on to win him South Africa’s biggest contemporary art competition, Spier Contemporary 2010.
This wasn’t enough for Chris though, who believed the fence was destined for a grander purpose and formed RIACT to make that vision a reality with a socially driven enterprise striving to create sustainable employment and improve life skills.
The Robben Island Fence Art was hard for me to visualise when I first heard about it, but now that I’ve seen and held a piece of the fence in my hands, a piece of our country’s very history, it has truly touched me and I grasp at it’s value. Chris is right. It deserves to be hung on walls, remembered for the men it shared a space with, who’s hands ran across it, those who gripped it for support.
The prices are really good and presentation is either ready framed or in a gift box. It comes with a certificate of authenticity. I’m hoping to get a piece that I can keep near as a reminder of how greatness can rise from just any bad situation. And right here from this place, it did.
NOTE – RIACT promotes the principles of waste reduction and recycling as elements of responsible citizenship, which is a fundamental prerequisite to shared freedom.