WATCH: A pilgrimage of memory to Robben Island

Every South African knows the impact and legacy that Robben Island has had on the country - it's the political melting pot that moulded, developed and grew the struggle into a democratic country.

It's more than a tourist trap. Its the depository of painful memories turned into wise reflections of the past, and this manifested itself when they hosted those with close ties to the island on a 12-hour night vigil on Wednesday that not only honoured its most famous former prisoner, but also those that helped shape the country today.

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5 December is also no ordinary date - not only is it the day Nelson Mandela found his hard-earned peace, it's also the day Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born, a man that helped lay the groundwork for South Africa's political will, and another former involuntary resident of Robben Island.

The two stalwarts, alongside the women that supported them and the struggle, were honoured through speeches, personal stories, poetry and the lighting of candles, offering as stand-ins for the spirit of South Africa's heroes - known and unknown.

“For many of us the opportunity to reflect on our liberation heroes in this way is a once in a lifetime opportunity. All in attendance paid homage to different icons with a heart-warming candle lighting ceremony which also celebrated lives of other late South African heroes,” says Morongoa Ramaboa, spokesperson for Robben Island Museum.

“Our President asked us not only to remember the past, but to build a future as we celebrate the centennial year.” continued Ramaboa. “As Robben Island Museum, it is our duty to share a true reflection of the island’s history, including that of those incarcerated and banished for their ideologies.”

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