Shiraz Bayjoo – ‘Ile De France’
6 August 2015 to 14 August 2015
‘Ile de France’ explores a set of narratives, referencing colonial seafarers, and fragments of the French and British Empire that remain through the creole identities of Mauritius today. The film unfolds both the historical and personal, and acting as a time based non-narrative piece, focuses on objects, architecture and environments that act as historical images or documents revealing encounters between Mauritius and its colonial past. Until the 17th century, Mauritius was an uninhabited island. Its people can be traced almost exclusively to the exploits of European colonists. During French then British colonial rule, Mauritius was pivotal to the slave trade as a strategic trading port, bringing Chinese and Arab merchants and trafficking slaves from India, East Africa and Madagascar. Several ruins are referenced within the film, from sugar plantations, to the water mill of an early gunpowder factory, overrun with vegetation and the vines from Banyan trees. Here the tentacles of the industrial revolution reach out; we start to unravel the purpose of the colony, the ambition of empire. The colonial architecture is further explored through the fading wooden houses of Port Louis. We are presented with sounds and scenes of these merchant houses, moving along the textures of their surfaces, aged in the tropics, with objects evocative of the different lives that have possessed these spaces. Shadows move across interiors adorned with religious motifs and objects from Muslim and Indian traders that took possession of the former colonial mansions from the late 19th century onwards. Mauritius, an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, also came to be known as the “Maroon republic” because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived on Le Morne Mountain. This film is a testament to the powers of globalisation and the impact of colonial rule. Ile de France is part of the archive, where through contemporary society a more complex layering of cultural takeovers and integrations have occurred and remain visible today. ‘Throughout its history of human habitation, Mauritius has been a profoundly cosmopolitan place (reminding us that globalization has a long history)’.