i never particularly wanted to go to Robben Island. in fact, to be honest, for a time i particularly didn’t want to go to Robben Island.
Something about growing up in a not too politicized environment perhaps and then later not really seeing the point or perhaps thinking it was a ‘flavour of the month’ kind of vibe with everyone going and it being such a touristy thing.
But then somewhere along the line [maybe when i was in Americaland and we would drive past Alcatraz on the bridge and i’d think, ‘Well, i can’t go there cos i haven’t even been to Robben Island] it changed and it was ‘a thing i would like to do someday’. but it always seemed booked up and quite expensive and so never became an actually planned reality.
WHY THE CHANGE OF HEART?
On the 27th of November, tbV [the beautiful Val] and i received an email that contained this invitation:
“SACLI’s youth team, Freedom Mantle, is putting together a small event (about 20 younger leaders) on Robben Island for young Christian leaders who are passionate about coming together to transform the nation in their generation. I have attached some documents that give more details. The head of the Freedom Mantle team is Siki Dlanga, who is based in the Eastern Cape.
The young leaders will aim to discern what God is doing in the nation at this moment, specifically around the identity of this new generation of leaders and the calling we have to achieve in our lifetime. The outcomes of the Imbizo will hopefully provide the beginning of some foundations for a deeper and broader process of discernment as we clarify how we understand the movement God is initiating in our nation at the present time. At this stage the participants are a mixture of artists, activists and academics.
Could you join us on Robben Island from the morning of 5 December to 7 December and be part of this discernment process? December 5 is the one year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death and the 90th anniversary of the birth of Robert Sobukwe and we will include some symbolic spiritual acts around committing to picking up the Mantle of the older generation of Godly leaders in our nation. We will be sleeping in the prison. Most days will be facilitated prayer and conversation. On Dec 5 Archbishop Njongonkulu, who was a prisoner on the island for 10 years, will join us to lead some symbolic actions committing ourselves to picking up the leadership mantle of our elders.”
The invitation combined two things i am absolutely passionate about – God and South Africa and so it was a no brainer. The trip was fairly pricey in terms of what we’d want to spend on a weekend, but it included the expensive tickets to and back from the island and so was an easy purchase.
i imagine, in the next few days, as i try to put some words together to try and adequately give some kind of glimpse of the depth and significance of this week to me and us as a group, that i will fail dismally, but i will try. Suffice it to say it was an incredible group of people, some deep and involved conversations on a number of issues facing our country and the church, and some incredible food and profound experiences.
One of the highlights for me was getting to hang with my friend Nkosivumile Gola who has written a number of times for this blog, such as this piece on First Steps towards a Really New South Africa, to be able to eat together and have some back and forth conversations. And he was just one of the legendary young leaders that were brought together for this Indaba.
So glad i went – many reflections to come [both online and privately] and a copy of ‘Robert Sobukwe: How can Man Die Better’ by Benjamin Pogrund to dive into, as i start to increase and diversify my knowledge of the South African story thus far.