A Culture History of Robben Island: Izingoma zoMzabalazo Esiqithini (Struggle Songs on Robben Island) Book & Documentary Film


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Monitoring & Evaluation Directorate


Robben Island Prison—the Alcatraz of the Apartheid State—off the coast of Cape Town, in South Africa is the subject of this book proposal. It examines the role of culture in the African liberation struggle in South Africa, especially the part songs played in that struggle. It uses the case study of Robben Island prison, from 1960 to 1991 to narrate African liberation movements of South Africa. The prison was at the heart of that struggle; and whilst a great deal has been written about the heroic struggles on Robben Island. Little, if any, has been said about the cultural struggles and achievements of the Robben Islanders. The inhuman conditions of imprisonment on Robben Island failed to destroy the will of artists who wanted to voice their achievements and failures, hopes and frustrations, and the inevitability of their release and ultimate liberation through song, singing and music. The book affirms that culture played an important role in the liberation struggle of Africa; but sadly, it is in the arena of culture that little attention has been paid.