GIS – 03 February, 2020: Preserving and remembering our history is essential to build our future. The Open-Air Museum is yet another emblematic historical site that safeguards the memories of slavery in Mauritius. Furthermore, the Intercontinental Slavery Museum, to be set up in Port-Louis, is another project geared towards remembering the sufferings, the resilience and struggle for freedom of our forefathers.
This was the gist of the message of the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, during his keynote address, on Saturday 1st February 2020, at the official ceremony commemorating the 185th anniversary of the Abolition of slavery, held at Le Morne Village. The Minister of Culture and Communication from the Republic of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Diop, was the Chief Guest of the Government.
Prior to the official event, a Wreath laying ceremony at the International Slave Route Monument as well as the inauguration of the Open-Air Museum at Trou Chenille were held.
In his address, Prime Minister Jugnauth highlighted that it is crucial to keep alive the painful memories of slaves who fought colonial oppression to gain back their freedom and dignity. He reflected on the inhuman conditions of slave trade wherein slaves were denigrated as mere objects of exploitation and emphasised on the need to remember their struggle for freedom and their contribution to the country's progress. The Government is keen to safeguard historical sites and tangible cultural heritage that allow us to probe into the country's past, he added.
The safeguard of the history of Mauritius, he pointed out, remains Government's key priority, while adding that the Open-Air Museum at Trou Chenille and the Intercontinental Slavery Museum being constructed at ex-Labourdonnais Military Hospital, near Aapravasi Ghat, in Port Louis, are key symbolical sites that crystallise the struggles of Mauritius. He indicated that the Intercontinental Slavery Museum will, in its first phase, house exhibitions of various objects utilised by slaves while the second phase will consist of infrastructural works.
Prime Minister Jugnauth also underscored the presence of the Senegalese Minister as a testimony to the strong ties that Mauritius and Senegal share, which are intrinsically woven in common historical and human linkages. Senegal and Mauritius, he highlighted, are connected in a common destiny marked by the greatest human tragedy of slavery. He indicated that some 100 slaves transited to the Island of Gorée on their destination to Mauritius and that this historical and cultural connection is evidenced in our mother tongue which contains some Senegalese words.
Speaking about the injustice inflicted to slaves, he assured that the Government is determined to create opportunities for the social integration and economic empowerment of their descendants. He recalled that in line with the aim of promoting equity and social justice, Government is committed to tackle absolute poverty, to champion inclusive development for all and uplift the quality of life of the population, in particular vulnerable facilities. On that score, he enumerated key measures geared towards these objectives namely: the introduction of the minimum salary, the elaboration of the Marshall plan to fight poverty, and the reform of the education sector which essentially seeks to provide equal and free access to primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Also present on the occasion, the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Avinash Teeluck, underpinned the contribution of our slave ancestors in the country's progress and the rich cultural heritage that have been transmitted to the people of Mauritius that forms part of the Mauritian Identity and cements harmony and unity in our society.
Furthermore, he called that a similar twinning as the one between Le Morne Cultural Landscape and Robben Island Museum, should be made with the Island of Gorée to make the three sites a cultural pilgrimage destination. This, he said, will herald another form of bonding between the countries that have shared memories of slavery and more importantly, will enable people to discover the tragic history of slavery.
The Minister underlined that during this 185th commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery, it is important to remember the struggle and resistance of slaves against inhuman treatment, and the triumph of the principles of liberty, equality and dignity.
It is recalled that the Open-Air Museum at Trou Chenille seeks to preserve the intangible cultural heritage of our ancestors by paying tribute to the hardship endured by our ancestors. The Minister indicated that Trou Chenille was the first village to be inhabited by freed slaves and is an emblematic symbol of resilience as they persevered to live in dignity despite the harsh conditions. The museum, for which Government earmarked a budget of Rs 4 M, is a replica of the way of living of these people and gives a glimpse of the different facets of their traditions.
Senegal and Mauritius to overcome its dark past and recreate its future
As for the Senegalese Minister, Mr Abdoulaye Diop, he highlighted the importance of remembering to ensure that the memories of sufferings of our forefathers linger throughout the generations to come, so that the young generation prizes their freedom, and realise how their ancestors have marked the history of their race and country by standing against injustice and oppression to pass on the heritage of freedom.
Moreover, Mr Diop spoke about Senegal's own symbolical site, the Island of Gorée, that serves as a stark reminder of the human exploitation during slave trade. Inscribed as an UNESCO's World Heritage Site, it exhibits Senegal's dark period of slavery and is a space for exchange and dialogue between cultures to promote a cultural Renaissance for Africa, he said. It will also enable international collaboration to advocate for human rights as well as enable the African diaspora to connect to their roots and strengthen their black identities, he added.
Africa, he said, is the largest site where a wave of development and evolution has unfurled, and is more determined than ever to march towards prosperity and face any challenges that comes into its way. It is crucial for Senegal and Mauritius to overcome its dark past and recreate its future by turning to each other for cooperation in the spirit of fraternity.
The Minister underlined that Mauritius has an exceptional history of resilience and struggle for freedom, as despite being ruled in succession by various colonisers, has managed to obtain its independence and rise as a strong nation. According to him, Mauritius stands as a model for the whole humanity, for having forged harmony, fraternity and solidarity in the midst of a multiracial and multicultural society.
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