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Robben Island Rainbow Dreams: The Making of Democratic South Africa’s First National Heritage Institution

Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi, Noel Solani, André Odendaal, and Khwezi ka Mpumlwana, editors
Robben Island Rainbow Dreams: The Making of Democratic South Africa’s First National Heritage Institution
ISBN: 978-1-928246-29-9
ISBN: 978-1-928246-54-1
2021/415 pages
Distributed for Best Red, an imprint of HSRC Press


Following the birth of democracy in South Africa in 1994, Robben Island, once a symbol of pain, injustice, and closed spaces, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a global symbol of the commitment to democracy, tolerance, and human dignity. In the years that followed, however, conflict marred the high hopes for this cherished location. Robben Island Rainbow Dreams offers a behind-the-scenes account of the creation of the Robben Island Museum and the debate over democratic South Africa's first national heritage institution.


Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi is senior lecturer in history at the University of Witwatersrand. Noel Solani is director of the Ditsong Museum of Cultural History. André Odendaal is honorary professor in history and heritage studies at the University of the Western Cape. Khwezi ka Mpumlwana is director of Zenalia Consulting, focusing on innovation, heritage economics, and South Africa's liberation heritage.


  • Prologue—A. Odendaal.
  • The Liberation Struggle as Incubator for RIM—A. Odendaal.
  • UWC's Mayibuye Centre: The Conceptual Base for RIM—A. Odendaal.
  • Lobbying and Planning: A New South African Museums and Heritage Sector, 1990–1994—A. Odendaal.
  • Defining the Vision: "The Triumph of the Human Spirit"—Address by Ahmed Kathrada.
  • The Mandate: Cabinet's Decision on the Future of the Island, 1994–1996—A. Odendaal.
  • Throwing Open the Prison Doors, 1 January 1997—A. Odendaal.
  • Official Launch of RIM, 24 September 1997—Address by Nelson Mandela.
  • Consolidation, Commemoration, Celebration: On the Way to UNESCO World Heritage Site Status, 1998–2000—A. Odendaal.
  • Putting in Place Building Blocks for the Future—A. Odendaal.
  • A Dirty Tricks Campaign Unfolds, 2001—A. Odendaal et al.
  • The Pressure on RIM Intensifies—A. Odendaal. 
  • The Rupture, July 2002—A. Odendaal.
  • Downward Spiral of an Institution and Its Vision—A. Odendaal.
  • Narrative Design and Memory-Making as Healing Modality: The Ethos of Early RIM Education and Public Programming—D. Prins-Solani.
  • Creating a New Generation of Heritage and Museum Leaders: The Inception of the Robben Island Training Programme—K.k. Mpumlwana and G. Corsane.
  • From Mayibuye Centre to the UWC/Robben Island Mayibuye Archives—A. Josias.
  • Signature in the City: Building the Nelson Mandela Gateway Building—L. Le Grange.
  • Preparing for South Africa's First UNESCO World Heritage Site—J. Pastor.
  • Challenges in Preventative Conservation: Artifacts as a Means of Triggering Memory and a Process of Healing—I. Mafune.
  • Conservation Management Planning and Robben Island's Layered History—H. Deacon.
  • Conserving the Island's Environment—S. Davis.
  • An Ex–Political Prisoner's Memories of Living and Working on Robben Island—L. Davis.
  • Building a New Community on the Island: The Robben Island Village Association—L. Damon and R. Damon.
  • Making the Intangible Tangible: The First Tour Guides and the Social Memory of Robben Island—V. Mitchell.
  • Appeasing the Ancestors: Art and Culture as a Way of Giving Meaning to RIM—R. Carneson.
  • Memories of Working in RIM's First Exhibitions Unit, 1999–2008—G. Cheminais.
  • Participation in Progress: The Story of Robben Island's Ex-Political Prisoner Reference Groups—R. Meintjes et al.
  • Research Unit Experiences in Memorializing and Archiving Robben island Prisoner Memories Through Oral History—N. Solani and O. Makhalemele.
  • Journey to Sithebe Village: In Search of the First Political Prisoners in Robben Island Maximum Security Prison—N.L.l. Ramoupi et al.
  • Restoring Dignity to the 12 Robben Island Prisoners Buried as Paupers in Stikland Cemetery by the Apartheid Regime—N. Tongo-Cetywayo and M. Fullard.
  • The Making and Demise of the Nelson Mandela Gateway Exhibition, 2001–2010—M. Smallberg.
  • The Saint of the Struggle: RIM and the Debate About Deconstructing the Mandela Myth—N. Solani.
  • Pan Africanist and Black Consciousness Perspectives: Beneath the Surface of the Robben Island Museum Images—L.M. Dondolo.
  • The Role of the Robben Island Museum in the Transformation of South Africa's Cultural Landscape—K. ka Mpumlwana and N.L.I. Ramoupi.
  • See the Seagulls Fly: A Message to My Daughter—A. Forbes.
  • Fast Forward from RIM Rupture to State Capture—A. Odendaal.
  • Mr. K. and the Replica of His Cell—A. Odendaal.