I wonder if Nelson Mandela might have felt like this allium bud while imprisoned at Robben Island for 18 years. I wonder if, despite his captivity, he always knew that his potential, power, and gifts could not be confined indefinitely.
I’ve given a lot of thought to the power of gardens over the years, but never to their role in political revolution.
The garden in the courtyard of the Robben Island jail off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, takes the concept of garden power to a whole new level. Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars for speaking out against South Africa’s apartheid system.
We visited Robben Island, now a World Heritage site, on our recent trip to South Africa. Our tour guide was a former inmate of the prison, having been arrested for political dissent as a teenager. As we passed through an open courtyard in the center of the structure, he told us that this was where the prisoners were allowed to exercise each day.
He pointed to some scruffy-looking plants in a corner and explained, “That is Nelson Mandela’s garden. He hid his political writings in that garden to be smuggled out of the prison.”
A W E S O M E!!!!!!!
I immediately broke away from the group to take a closer look and to personally thank those plants for the role they had played in helping Mandela’s inspiring words contribute to the take-down of apartheid, the system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination that the white South African government maintained from 1948-1991.
Along with the traitorous plants (and I mean that in a totally complimentary way), there was a scruffy, struggling apple tree along another wall marked by this sign:
Another high five for the inspirational power of plants and gardens!
Since I need to get going to head into DC for the Climate Change March, I’ll let the photos do the rest of the telling.
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