Lancaster exhibition shows island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned

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An exhibition by a photographer who spent childhood holidays on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, will be displayed at Lancaster’s Dukes theatre.

Petre Smith’s exhibition coincides with The Dukes production of The Island, a striking and insightful account of apartheid era South Africa which opens on April 27.

Petre’s father worked for the prison service on Robben Island and the photographer recently returned there with his own son and has produced a unique insight into the place.

“During my innocent days as a child, Robben Island was a place I associated with long summer holidays, freedom to roam and fond memories playing and exploring with my cousin,” said Petre.

“Those days are gone now but the island remains, a powerful metaphor of man’s ability to instil a dark and ominous soul to an island.”

This exhibition of new and original photography, entitled Kwisiqithi, accompanies The Island which is a Dukes co-production with Chipping Norton Theatre.

Kwisiqithi is the Xhosa word for The Island, the tongue in which Nelson Mandela and the freedom fighters debated and designed the first constitution draft for a free South Africa while taking respite from working in the hazardous chalk mine.

The Island, which runs at The Dukes until May 6, is described as a captivating and moving drama exploring friendship between two prisoners and its theme of protest and dissent is still relevant today.

Director John Terry said: “The Island is a testament to the indefatigable and uncrushable nature of the human spirit.”

Appearing in this new co-production are Mark Springer who played Albany in last year’s sell out, critically acclaimed Royal Exchange/Talawa production of King Lear and has performed extensively at the RSC and The National.

He will be joined by Edward Dede, who recently appeared as Matthew in Design for Living at The Old Vic as well as in productions for Paines Plough, Trafalgar Studios and Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake.

The Island was first produced in 1973 under a different title as, for many years, it was forbidden to even mention Robben Island, such was the reputation of its prison.

The exhibition which coincides with the show will be on display in The Dukes café bar.

The Island, which is suitable for ages 12 plus, is supported by Arts Council England and following its Dukes run will tour to Chipping Norton, Bristol and Southwark Playhouse in London.

To book tickets for The Island, contact the box office on 01524 598500 or visit