Monday, 22 October 2012

'The Robben Island Bible' and the 'Robben Island Bible'

On the 18th of October 2012, the reading of the play, The Robben Island Bible was performed at the British Museum.  Although a reduced, twenty minute version of the full play with two brilliant actors was performed, the star of the evening was, without a doubt, Sonny's copy of his Complete Works of William Shakespeare in the 'Shakespeare: Staging the World' exhibition one floor up from the theatre.  With a theatrical stretch, you could imagine Sonny on the stage telling a reduced version of his life in the Liberation Movement [well done to Jack Klaff for pulling that off].  It was a joy to here this story.  Then there was the invitation to see his most treasured souvenir.  You could have heard a pin drop during Jack & Cornelius's performance.

The Q & A following the performance featured Dame Janet Suzman, John Carlin and Matthew Hahn.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Robben Island Bible at the British Museum

There will be a reading of the play on 18th October at the British Museum in association with Brand South Africa and the British Museum's exhibition on William Shakespeare called 'Shakespeare: Staging the World'.

The reading will feature actors Jack Klaff & Cornelius Macarthy.  Following the reading will be a Q & A with the actors, Dame Janet Suzman and John Carlin, author of 'Playing the Enemy,' the basis for the film, Invictus.  It will be chaired by actor Pamela Nomvete.

The evening will be opened by the chairman of the British Museum Mr. Niall FitzGerald KBE  and the High Commissioner of South Africa His Excellency Dr. Zola Skweyiya at 7pm.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Recent Radio Coverage of the Robben Island Bible

The play was also featured recently on BBC Radio Four's 'Front Row' programme. as well as the BBC World Service's 'The Strand' programme.

Recent Print Coverage on the reading at the Southbank Centre

There has been some coverage of the event on the 3rd of July. Here are some links to them: South Africa, freedom and Shakespeare and South Africa: African Freedom and Shakespeare's World and The Robben Island Bible and the SA story

Recently Published article in Anglo Files, a quarterly journal for English teachers in Denmark

I first heard about a copy of the ‘Complete Works of William Shakespeare’ known as the ‘Robben Island Bible’ when a good friend was reading Anthony Sampson’s wonderful biography on Nelson Mandela in 2002.  I was fascinated by the story and found online the subsequent article that Sampson wrote ‘O, what men dare do’ in the Observer from 2001.

The book’s owner, South African Sonny Venkatrathnam, was a political prisoner on Robben Island from 1972 to 1978. He asked his wife to send him ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare’ during a time when the prisoners were briefly  allowed to have one book, other than a religious text, with them. The book’s ‘fame’ resides in the fact that Venkatrathnam passed the book to a number of his fellow political prisoners in the single cells. Each of them marked his favourite passage in the ‘Complete Works’ and signed it with the date. It contains thirty-two signatures, including those of Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and Mac Maharaj, all luminaries in the struggle for a democratic South Africa.

These men signed passages within the text, which they found particularly moving, meaningful and profound. The selection of text provides fascinating insight into the minds, thinking and soul of those political prisoners who fought for the transformation of South Africa. It also speaks to the power of Shakespeare’s resonance with the human spirit regardless of place or time. But, as he explains it, he just wanted a ‘souvenir’ of his time in the Leadership Section of Robben Island.

After hearing this fantastic tale, I determined to write a play based on interviews with as many of the former political prisoners I could find intertwined with the chosen Shakespearian texts.  I first encountered Sonny’s ‘Bible’ in 2006 when it left South Africa for the first time to be a part of the Complete Works Exhibition hosted by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon.  In 2008, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and interview Sonny and seven other signatories of the ‘Bible’ to form the foundation of the play. I returned to South Africa in 2010 for further interviews and to workshop the research with the Market Theatre Laboratory. 

It is an honour to have had the opportunity to spend time with these most gentle of men – each one a lion in the fight against apartheid.  Many opened their homes to me, a complete stranger, for a couple of hours, shared with me a cup of tea and what their lives were like under an oppressive regime.  As Ahmed Kathrada said, ‘After being locked up for all of these years, when I get a chance to speak to someone who is interested in my story, I find it hard to keep quiet.’

I was, and continue to be, fascinated by the resonance of the chosen texts and the men’s biographies – how life imitates art and; how great art, like holy books, seems to give strength to the oppressed. 
In an interview, Sonny reflected on the choices the men made, ‘The things is, honestly I think, 
a lot of the people who chose particular lines in my 'Bible' very deliberately would today find it 
difficult to identify themselves with that particular line or passage.  Most of the thinking people on Robben Island leaned towards the Left ideologically.  If you look at the Freedom Charter from 1958 you will see that.  But compared to the ANC National policy today, you cannot believe that this is the same organization.  So what I am saying is that a lot of people that I thought would never ideologically change have switched horses.  Yesterday’s Communists are today’s biggest Capitalists.  I find that very difficult to reconcile.  I’m not saying that they mustn’t adapt and all of that, but to become so virulently Capitalist, I don’t think that is acceptable.  Power corrupts, you see, Shakespeare tried to teach us that   But some gave up the struggle o a softer life. I find that very unconscionable.’

This observation ran through several of the interviewees when reflecting on the Struggle.  Eddie Daniels stated, ‘We, in the Struggle, fought for what we believed in:  idealism, peace, reconciliation, dignity, respect, integrity.  These were our values.  Not values of self enrichment.  Not values of greed.  Our values were good.  Today, that cannot be said for everybody.  Many bad people have cast a shadow on the efforts of those who had died to bring about change in South Africa.  That is the difference between then and today.’

Of the many enlightening aspects of the project, the one that most strikes me as an artist are the chosen Shakespearian texts. When reading these texts, I have to disassociate my knowledge of the play and read the choices through the prism of Apartheid South Africa. This has shown a new light on the works of Shakespeare and how the plays were interpreted then and today. In an interview, actor John Kani tells a heart-rending story of one of the political prisoners, Wilton Mkwayi, who went into prison just before he married his fiancé:

‘He waited for over twenty-three years on Robben Island to finally to stand in front of the pastor to be married after he is released, so they are perpetually engaged for over twenty three years. They did visit once a month, once every three months, but a visit onto Robben Island was so irregular. They were not meant to make the prisoner comfortable. Sometimes the boat would arrive with the men's wives with the men ready to meet them; and the boat turns back. Men would come, take a look at their wives and march back to their cells without talking.’

Wilton Mkwayi chose Malvolio from Twelfth Night:

‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Thy Fates open their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them; and to inure thyself to what thou art like to be, cast thy humble slough, and appear fresh. Be opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into the trick of singularity. She thus advises thee that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and not worthy to touch Fortune’s fingers. Farewell. She that would alter services with thee. THE FORTUNATE-UNHAPPY.’

This choice, taken out of context of the play and placed in context of a Liberation activist who spent over twenty years on Robben Island, reveals another aspect of the play that has never been tapped.

Currently, I am honing the script, conducting further interviews and trying to gauge interests in theatres in the United Kingdom, United States and in South Africa to further develop this project.
It has been an honour to be associated with this South African treasure. As an artist and social activist, I have met people who have humbled me with their stories. Working on this play for so long, I am pleased to see that the names of these men are finally getting known by the public. It is incredibly important for the play that the names of Cooper, Cholo, Daniels and many others are as well know to the wider world as Mandela and Sisulu already are known. There are thousands of heroes, men and women, of the Struggle who are unsung. This is a shame and something, in my very small way, I want to change.

Alongside the play, I am also developing workshops around the themes of Social Responsibility, Citizenship and Leadership. I am basing these workshops around the chosen Shakespearian texts [‘Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more...’ / ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once...’ amongst many others] and the interviews.

To date, there have been three readings to mark the various stages of the research and development of the play: the first, in 2008 at the Robben Island Museum; the second, in 2009, at the Richmond Theatre in London which featured John Kani, his son and one other actor from the Baxter Theatre Company’s The Tempest; and the latest, in July 2012, at the Southbank Centre as a part of their ‘Africa Utopia’ season.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The South African, Issue 468, 19 June 2012

 Shakespeare’s political and historical works may make schoolchildren the world over go cross-eyed, but the leaders of Africa found in his rhetoric the inspiration to get through the most harrowing moments of their lives, and inspire legends which carry the stories on into artworks of their own.

Thabo Mbeki became enthralled by Shakespeare when he was at Sussex University, and has since quoted him at every opportunity. When Nelson Mandela celebrated his 80th birthday in 1998, just before stepping down as President, Mbeki made a speech speculating about how Madiba would retire to the country, quoting from King Lear:
‘To tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news’
ulius Caesar has probably the most impact on Africa. Its original translation into Swahili by the first democratic President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, marked a shift in white-dominated education. The role of the Bard continued to be strongly political in South Africa, resonating with an oppressed people realising their potential against authority.

The story of the ‘Robben Island Bible’ is a fantastic example of the imagined and real histories recreated by Shakespeare taking flight in the minds of the political prisoners of South Africa. Nelson Mandela, alongside similarly segregated prisoners Ahmed ‘Kathy’ Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Eddie Daniels, Michael Dingake, Kwede Mkalipi, Theo Cholo, and Andrew Mlangeni, would gather together and recite long passages of Shakespeare.  Another prisoner, Sonny Venkatrathnam, kept a copy of The Complete Works disguised as a religious text in his cell. Known as the ‘Robben Island Bible’ because of this, he eventually passed it to each of his friends, asking them to sign a passage that meant a lot to them.

Julius Caesar remained the favourite, and Madiba himself chose the lines below, which he signed and dated 16 December 1977. The words exemplify Caesar’s, and his, fearless leadership:

‘Cowards die many times before their deaths
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.’

These moments were immortalised in a play by London-based playwright Matthew Hahn, The Robben Island Bible. When asked why he still thinks Shakespeare is relevant, he referred to the inmates, who he interviewed extensively to write and produce the play. “They were all still quoting Shakespeare,” he said, “And Andrew Mlangeni was saying that it is still relevant after 400 years.”

When asked why, Matthew said, “There is a universal appeal to Shakespeare: the plays can be adapted and performed in a number of different settings.” Themes such as love, betrayal, political competition, leadership and fidelity, “these are themes that never go away” believes Matthew.

Matthew’s play is being staged at the London Literary Festival at London’s Southbank Centre on Tuesday 3 July while the original ’The Robben Island Bible’ can be seen in the exhibit ‘Staging the World’ at the British Museum from 19 July.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The British Museum: Interview with Matthew Hahn on the Robben Island Bible

Interview with Matthew Hahn on the Robben Island Bible
The Robben Island Bible is a play based on selected text from South African Sonny Venkatrathnam’s copy of ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare’ & interviews with former political prisoners held on this island prison.
In this interview, Matthew Hahn discusses his play, The Robben Island Bible, that will be performed as part of the London Literary Festival’s Africa Utopia Series at the Southbank Centre on 3 July 2012.For more information or to book tickets, click here.
The British Museum is offering a unique opportunity to photograph, behind the scenes at the British Museum, the installation of ‘the Robben Island Bible’ - the secret copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare kept in the Robben Island jail during Apartheid in the 1970s. The book is signed by Nelson Mandela, and is part of the forthcoming exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world.

DATE: Monday 18 June
TIME:  09.00 – 10.00
PLACE: Meet in the Great Court at the Information Desk
  British Museum, Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG

CONTACT: Olivia Rickman in the Press Office at the British Museum 020 7323 8583

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Robben Island Bible will be performed as part of the London Literary Festival at London’s Southbank Centre on Tuesday 3rd July.

Matthew Hahn’s play, The Robben Island Bible, will be performed as part of the London Literary Festival’s Africa Utopia Series, which explores where the continent can lead the world, including the role of music and theatre, sustainable technologies, science and innovation.

The reading will feature  the actors Vincent Ebrahim, Cornelius Macarthy and Chuk Iwuji and be directed by Mark Griffin.

The play is based on a true story that took place at the Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, and which is a global symbol of the apartheid struggle. Political prisoner Sonny Venkathrathnam had a copy of 'The Complete Works of Shakespeare' brought into the prison and it soon became a treasure, passed between fellow prisoners who signed and dated their favourite extracts from the Works. Matthew has turned this story into a play, featuring extracts of Shakespeare intercut with testimony of the former political prisoners. Matthew commented, “It has been an honour to be associated with this South African treasure. As an artist and social activist, I have met people who have humbled me with their stories. Working on this play for so long, I am pleased to see that the names of these most gentle of men are finally getting known by the public.” Before the performance, writer Ashwan Desai will give a keynote talk based on his book, 'Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island'. Following the performance will be a Q & A with Ashwin, Matthew, members of the cast and facilitated by actress Pamela Nomvete. The performance begins at 7.45pm and prices start from £10. For more information, please visit

Trip to Durban

On Thursday 26 April, I fly to Durban with 11 students from St Mary's University College, where I teach Theatre for Development. We will be working in a variety of situations with a variety of organisations [schools, FE colleges and other young artists]. I will also have the opportunity to visit with Sonny & Theresa for the first time in almost four years. It will be an honour to see them again. I have not been to Durban since 2008 as well, so it will be nice to be back there. I can't wait to personally catch up with them about the mad and wonderful trip I have been on since our interview. I must tell him that I am humbled by the opportunities his book has opened for me. I revel in what has been happening to me & the development of the play and the shear amount of interest that his story has garnered. Finally, after working on this project in earnest since 2005, people are beginning to recognize the 'bible' and have 'heard something about it.' As with any labour of love, I am shocked that more people don't know about these most gentle of men, but through the development of the play and the development of workshops on leadership, citizenship & social change, I hope to bring about a bit of change of my own.

Upcoming Events around the Robben Island Bible

I am pleased to announce three upcoming events around Sonny Venkatrathnam's copy of 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare' and my play, The Robben Island Bible. Sonny's 'bible' will form a major part of the upcoming exhibition at the British Museum's 'Shakespeare: Staging the World'. The second is the BBC Radio Four's 'Shakespeare's Restless World' series And finally, there will be a reading of my play at the London Literary Festival on the 3rd of July. For more information please visit here. I am pleased to say that the world is finally hearing more about this incredible piece of history which has been tucked away in a cupboard in Durban for so many years. But, much more importantly, the world is also finally beginning to hear the names of other anti-apartheid freedom fighters who spent years imprisoned for their belief in democracy & social equality. The names of Venkatrathnam, Kathrada, Dingake, Daniels, Cooper and so many others who sacrificed their lives to the Struggle.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

RIB Education Outreach / Workshops - Social Change, Citizenship & Leadership

One of the key aspects that has always been embedded in this project is the ability for Shakespeare & the former political prisoners to educate and spark debate in today's young people [and those not so young as well].

As a part of my next trip to South Africa, I hope to meet with the Department of Basic Education of South Africa to gauge their interest in using the play as a part of their curriculum especially in the area of Citizenship, Leadership and Social Change. It would be wonderful to use the Robben Island Bible as a starting point to discuss these themes with young people. I am currently developing schemes of work & lesson plans that are built aound the chosen quotes & the interviews:

Ahmed Kathrada chose Henry V's
'Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage ....'

- Leading by example by putting himself into the fight; putting himself among his soldiers rather than in front of or behind; listening to his soldiers before delivering his address.... All qualities of a good leader.

Nelson Mandela chose Julius Caesar's
'Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

- An able general; a good judge of character.... Again, all excellent qualities in a leader.

For the creation of this play, I have interviewed MPs, ANC National Executive Committee members, contributors to the development of democratic South Africa and others whose imprint on today's South Africa is enormous. From these most humble of men, gems of great leadership qualities, the importance of citizenship and one's ability to make positive social change were at the forefront of every interview.

What a wonderful opportunity to use the former political prisoner's chosen quotes along with the transcripts of these great leaders. It would be a great honour for me to use the play in this way. I hope that it would also be an honour to the men whom have shared so much with me and who fought so hard for a democratic South Africa.

Part of the discussion in a workshop would be the learners performing selections from the play. In particular, I'd like them to look at the following sections where the characters unpack their chosen quotes:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

My background is one of being illiterate. When I get to prison, I had a Standard 6 education and had never heard of Shakespeare. My first degree on Robben Island is my 'third degree' interrogation by the security police! But when I am allowed to study on Robben Island, it is the first time that I encountered Shakespeare and I also get two academic degrees. Part of my syllabus is to know certain aspects of Shakespeare - Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and others. To me, Shakespeare is a voyage of discovery. It is the first time I read plays, poems and poetry with such depth, and I am really, really in awe. As a matter of fact, on one occasion we put on Julius Caesar and I play the role of Marc Anthony. This to me is a big voyage of discovery. But Shakespeare, in spite of my shallow understanding of blank verse and poetry and plays, I find gripping. I find it embracing. And I choose this passage from Macbeth, when many other passages I perhaps could have chosen, but I love Macbeth, because it is so true. In the final analysis, we all strive to build up our little kingdoms, with our families, do the best for our families and try and do the best for our country. But in 50 years' time, we are no more, we're forgotten. You take people like Julius Caesar, he's still remembered. But how many other people with Julius Caesar are remembered? In time to come, Julius Caesar too will be forgotten. And that is life. We only have the greats, who are remembered. Jesus, Moses, Winston Churchill, Herr Hitler. And of course Shakespeare. You remember these people because of the highlights. But can you imagine all the other millions of people who passed away unnoticed? But in their own light, in their own right, they had also a little kingdom to look after. Of course life contains many brave episodes. And each father to his family is a hero. Each mother to her family is a heroine. And the children are precious jewels to their parents. But the cycle of life goes on. Birth and death, and death, and birth, goes on. And after a time it just, is, forgotten. And that is our life. And from babyhood you go through life, battling, struggling. Getting married, getting degrees. Getting a big bank balance. And then we leave the earth as we came in, with nothing. With nothing. With nothing. And this passage is so true. And Shakespeare could portray the insignificance of man. That we are just mere mortals. Eventually we'll turn to dust, and the world will not remember us. Whilst we are living, we are full of pomp and ceremony, and trying to impress the world. But in the final analysis, we are nothing. (Pause – signs & dates the 'bible')
Eddie Daniels, December 1978. (to Sony as he passes him the 'bible') I hope that you won't consider this as a 'tale told by an idiot'.
Not at all.


Theo passes the 'Bible' to Michael Dingake

That’s Polonius, that’s me yea? (laughing)

‘Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.’

Now, before you act – think about something properly. Don’t act what you’re thinking before you have to be really certain to what the repercussions might be. When I was arrested, I was really prepared, you know, psychologically wise. Anything could happen to me, even if I was killed. I was prepared for all of that.

‘Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul
with hoops of steel.’

You see, true friends – you have to be certain now that this one is true. And I think, you see, I am good at that personally. There are a few guys, you know, I could say now, ‘This one will never betray me.’ Now those you ‘grapple’ you see? Soul, yea, with hoops of steel.

‘Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.’

Now, ah, this is important for, well, politicians in particular (laughing). You have to listen to other people…But sometimes you have to be careful what you, you, say. If, for instance you say, ‘I agree with you. I agree with what you say’ …. you may be committing yourself unnecessarily because conditions may arise where you disagree. Think carefully about everything. I suppose that this is what Polonius is actually saying.

‘Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;’

Personally, that’s a weakness that I have (laughing). About how to dress. I am very found of, well, fashion. I am always among the trend setters.

‘For the apparel oft proclaims the man;’

I don’t know how the apparel proclaims me (laughing).
But this,
‘This above all-to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.’

This is really loaded with what we all should know - how as human beings, you know, to conduct ourselves. But it also means, you must really always think before you do. Before you plunge into anything, think carefully. (Pause – signs & dates the 'bible') Michael Dingake, 1 / 3 / 78.

Michael passes the 'Bible' to Kwede Mkalipi

Well, ah, if I were to come in, I will also quote the same man Shakespeare. This Macbeth always had a profound meaning to me. The passage I like very much is the one when Lady Macbeth, after Macbeth has done everything wrong, comes out and then says, she says, 'All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.' And that sigh that says, 'Oh, oh, oh.' And then another person says, 'Oh, what a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charg’d.' Even the very opening, 'So foul & fair, they have never seen.' Apartheid is done to the people of South Africa and, just like Lady Macbeth, this system cannot be purified. She says, ' All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand,' it means then that the damage that is done by the system of Apartheid cannot be repaid. (pause) You know, when I went to jail, and ah, I really hated the white man because of this system. But when I came /
Kathrada (turning in from another cell):
He hated the white man, He hated the white man (puts hand on Kwede) /
When I came in contact ah / This guy (gently taps Kathrada’s hand)....
Because he is PAC /
.... Yea... Because I'm PAC /


Sonny and his ‘bible’ find me here in 1972 and then leave me here in 1978. I choose Sonnet 122 because it philosophises about the brain, you know, thinking, you know. It conveys something which is perhaps tangible & understood. All friends, comrades so on and so forth in the Struggle, suffer under the nose of Apartheid regime. They do not consider those of us in the Struggle smart, particularly the black people. The whole world does not believe, they are always told lies by the South African government, that ‘No blacks will never take over,’ see?’ For all these years, whites never believe it. They think that we’ve got no brains. They think that we’ve got grass or soil or whatever in the brain. They do not that think, ‘They could do something.’

Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full charactered with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain,
Beyond all date, even to eternity:
Or, at the least, so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to razed oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be missed.
That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive thee more:
To keep an adjunct to remember thee
Were to import forgetfulness in me.

In revolutionary struggle, there is indeed some that don’t finish it. They change. Along the road. Maybe because of conditions, you know. But some, they remain. Like we do. So that is why I also chose Sonnet 123 – to remain true to the course forever, come what may.

No, Time, thou shall not boast that I do change:
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old;
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wondering at the present nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow, and this shall ever be;
I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.

The African National Congress did not want the armed struggle; they wanted to sit down and discuss, on the table. But, eh, the government, they just put their foot down. We are more like the slaves that had been taken from Africa to Europe & America because we don’t have any rights. See? Our rights are denied. See? (pause) Are really denied. You know by 1960, the first cadre of the African National Congress went out to go train. We think perhaps that we might have some friends in Africa and we did, but it was not sufficient enough – ‘cause the African states are being undermined by Verwoerd’s government & Forster’s government. We remain true to the cause forever, come what may. I think that the intensive training that we do is a very great achievement after suffering a lot… See? We are proud about that. We are proud about the cadres of the people of South Africa, particularly the blacks. (Pause – signs & dates both passages in the 'bible') Theo Cholo, December 1978.

Apartheid Explained:

Dinner in prison – Prisoners back into their cells. Under the following
dialogue, warders come around distributing the food according to race. Prisoners button their coats, take off their caps and stand at attention. Once the warders leave, Sonny take his bread and, in a repetition of the disguising of the ‘Bible’ scene, distribute it by cutting one slice of bread into several pieces.

Sonny (to the audience):
Apartheid on Robben Island, like the rest of South Africa, is applied in gradations. On top of the ladder are the whites, with privileges and rights. But white prisoners are not with us. Immediately under them are the Indians and Coloured; and the bottom of the ladder are the Africans or blacks. Your diet depended on whether or not you were an Indian, African or Coloured. On the island, Indians and Coloureds get a slice of bread every day, a tablespoon of sugar and some powered milk. Africans are not given any bread. Only on a Saturday will they get a slice of bread.

Kathrada (to the audience):
We pool all of our food together so in that way everyone is able to have a taste of bread. We cut them in quarters and rotate. We have a roster. The only day that I have a full slice is on a Saturday because everybody else has some. So a lot of things were different according to racial groups. In every respect, the Africans have the worst of it – outside and inside of prison.
When I landed on Robben Island – they brought us here by plane –we landed chained and shackled. I am shackled to Govan Mbeki, who is 20 years my senior. When we change into prison clothes, because he is an African, he has to wear short trousers, a cloth hat, sandals, no socks. I am given long trousers, socks, a felt hat and shoes. The rational behind short trousers is ‘All Africans, regardless of age, are ‘boys’ or ‘girls.’ So you had little children talking about ‘My garden boy.’ ‘My kitchen girl.’ Regardless of age. And boys wear short trousers. (pause) All of our leaders, because they are African, are ‘boys’…. I don’t know…the minds that invent this type of thing.

Other potential sources for ‘Leadership’ qualities:
Public Speeches – Mandela’s ‘Speech from the Dock’

Other potential sources for ‘Apartheid Explained’ for contextual history:
‘Good neighbour Policy’ speech - Hendrik Verwoerd
‘Separate Development’ speech - Hendrik Verwoerd