Xhosa kings urge ancestors to return from Robben Island

2011-03-05 16:08

For more than a century, Robben Island has been a scar on the spiritual consciousness of the Xhosa ­people.

During the war against the ­British, hundreds of Xhosa kings and chiefs were ­incarcerated on the island, where most of them died.

African beliefs hold that for ­ancestors to be able to guide their living descendants, and be at peace, they need to be buried in the land of their birth.

Xhosa traditional leaders ­believe that the kings and chiefs who died on Robben Island have, up to now, been unable to guide and protect their descendants.

This week the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders held a ceremony on the island to revive and reconnect the spirits of those who died there with the Xhosa people.

The ceremony was led by King Matshawandile Tele.“The island is testimony to countless scars of many centuries which were intentionally inflicted on man by man,” said Tele.

Ironically, it was on Robben ­Island, which was regarded as a place of “torture and brutality where leaders’ lives were lost”, that African democracy and leadership emerged as “a shining example for a future South Africa”.

The house of traditional leaders was “joining ­forces” with the island “because we have hopes that this place has the capability to restore ­integrity and traditional ­leadership, in ­accordance with customary law,” Tele said.

On Tuesday the 12 kings ­visited two sites on the island.

The first was where King Maqoma’s bones were believed to have been ­exhumed in 1978, and the second was where a monument could be erected to commemorate the ­fallen Xhosa leaders.During the ceremony, the kings pleaded with the ancestors to ­allow their spirits to be moved back to Eastern Cape, where they were born.

The house of traditional leaders’ hopes to have a monument erected to the fallen ancestors within a year might, however, be dashed by budgetary constraints.

Robben Island Museum spokesperson Shoni Khangala said that a monument to honour fallen Xhosa leaders was “not in our budget”.The finances of the Robben ­Island Museum have been ­questioned by the auditor-
general, who gave it a qualified audit last year. – West Cape News

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