The story of how the Robben Island prison fence was acquired goes back to 2009, when Cape Town based artist, Chris Swift, was using discarded material to create art as a comment on environmental issues.
Chris’ continuous search for discarded materials made him acutely aware of things being thrown away, and so it was that on an educational visit to Robben Island he noticed the historical prison fencing bound for a landfill. It had been replaced with new fencing as part of a revamp for the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela. After establishing the significance of the fence as part of South African history and Robben Island being a UNESCO World Heritage site, and anything on it being part of history. Chris arranged to rescue this valuable heritage through a series of enquiries and then took ownership of the fence when it reached the Cape Town mainland, where he spent the better part of 3 months processing the material.
This prison fence has an even grander purpose. We want the fence to come full circle, from holding captive the champions of human rights and democracy such as Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe and many more to freeing ordinary people from the prison of poverty.
In this way the Robben Island prison fence, through art and conservation, is helping to create sustainable jobs and move South Africans towards a brighter future.