Today saw us traipsing through the streets of Port Louis once again, a phrase that I will probably use often in the months to come as Port Louis is not a city to be explored in a matter of a day or two. This is a huge undertaking as one finds new treasures around every corner.
We decided however that today we will tackle the AAPRAVASI GHAT World Heritage Site and Beekrumsing Ramlallah Interpretation Centre (BRIC) to learn more about the history of the development of the indentured system as well as the experiences of indentured labourers at the immigration depot in Maurtius. As this is not a factual blog recounting the history of the indentured labourers I am not going into depth about it here. I do recommend a visit to this museum however as it is definitely worth it.
There is no fee for entering the center and once inside there are many Kids Zones where the children can take part in some interactive activities on the high tech touch screen computers. The girl-child and I gave it a try just so we can tell you whether it works well and it does. 😉 It’s a great activity to get the children interested in what would otherwise to them be boring grown-up stuff.
Walking through the well laid out museum we learnt some facts that astounded us. Before our visit we had a very limited and very basic idea about the facts surrounding the indentured labourer system, the practices enforced on innocent workers. Visiting the center educates one on how bleak the situation really was and the part it played in the development and history of this beautiful island.
Old buildings being only one of my favorite places to visit and photograph it was amazing to see some remnants of the buildings where the slaves were housed. To almost feel the history seeping through the stones, whispering their tales to the wind. One feels sad acknowledging the horrible conditions they must have endured. Stone buildings which seems to have been dark and dank with communal baths for all to use and hot as hell during the heat of summer I am sure.
As the girl-child aptly commented ‘the stables for the horses were of better quality than the accommodations reserved for the slaves.’ It makes one thinks about how the life of animals can be valued above those of humans. NOT that this statement makes me less of an animal lover just highlighting a fact.
Leaving the museum behind I noticed another building behind a high wall and being of an inquiring mind approached the guard sitting at the gate that is no more, asking whether we were allowed to explore. He waved us in explaining that it used to be the old Military Hospital, long since not in use.
A car park in the lot of the empty, unused building. A building that can at a glance, pass for an old French adobe, was it not for the broken windows and trees growing out of the walls and gutter. A beautiful building with faded blue shutters and crumbling brick walls. In my minds-eye I could imagine this building in it’s hey-day.
The two of us braved the cavernous inside, feeling compelled to whisper as we waited for our eyes to adjust to the dusky darkness inside. Shivers down our spines. People have died here, you can feel it in the air. Much bigger inside than is visible from the outside I was snapping away with my camera trying to imagine what it must have looked like so many years ago. Today we saw a majestic old building, one room filled with rotten wood and waste, the rest empty but with water seeping in somewhere making it impossible to venture in much farther as I would have liked to do.
Since coming home this afternoon I have Googled the Military Hospital and could not come up with a lot of information. The only information I could find is the following; Betrand Mahe de Labourdanais was appointed governer of the island in 1734 and that during his governship the Military Hospital was one of the buildings commissioned by him along a few other well-known ones. (http://www.mauritiusattractions.com was the source for the information above)
What I do know is that this is a building that will haunt me. I could glean that it is listed as a national heritage site, although it is more than evident that the hospital has seen no renovations in recent years or perhaps ever, a fact that saddens me.
I find it difficult to understand why our governments let neglect creep in and take hold of buildings that tell the tales of who we were and how we got to where we are. Mauritius is not the only place, one sees it in many other countries in the world.
Having said that, we had a super successful day exploring and peeling back one more tiny sliver of the multilayered little island permeated in history and culture.
Now the only question is…..
Where to next?
If you enjoy this blog be sure to follow us by filling in your details on the comments thread and you will find the next one in your inbox. Please NOTE that I am not an historian or researcher, just a mom with a penchant for writing and taking photos. For more photos of Mauritius and my explorations follow me on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/karolien.thereslifeafterkids/ , my @karolienthereslifeafterkids Instagram account or on @our_mauritius_moments on Instagram.
Until the next adventure….