On 17th December 2020, the Year 13 (Terminale) students of Mrs Shimjee and Mr Khoodoo headed for Port-Louis to discover the history of slavery and Indentured labour. The day was first spent at the Aapravasi Ghat where students learnt about the Great Experiment undertaken by the British to test the viability of indentured labour on plantations as an alternative to slavery.
After the first Indians arrived in Mauritius on board the Atlas in 1824, the Experiment`s success in Mauritius led to the policy of indentured labour being implemented across the Empire.
As a consequence, about 2.2 million Indians migrated to British colonies, with over 400k (97.5% of all indentured labourers) landing in Port-Louis to work on Mauritian plantations.
The relevance of Aapravasi Ghat to the history of indentured labour worldwide is the reason Aapravasi Ghat is recognised as a heritage site of outstanding value. The museum itself owes its existence to the work of archeologists and historians who carried out research abroad in England and India. Its many wonders include a replica of an immigrant ship, artefacts such as crockery, sculptures and innumerable record books that feature the photographs of Indian immigrants. Walking up the flight of 14 steps where the first immigrants trod was a truly memorable experience for the whole class.
Next on the itinerary was the Intercontinental Slavery Museum, where we were welcomed by an affable guide who led us into the front yard of the former Labourdonnais Military Hospital.
Students learnt a plethora of facts relating to the history of slavery, the inception of the Triangular trade, the tragic story of Malagasy prince Ratsitatane or even the use of tortoise meat at the Hospital in treating scurvy.
What’s more, the museum’s “Jardin du Moi” was an intense experience of reflection on the legacy of slavery. The most edifying episode of this trip was perhaps the hour or so we spent with Mrs Stephanie Tamby, one of the museum’s originators, to give feedback and suggest projects to enhance the museum. The air was filled with suggestions about the installation of sculptures and other artworks, symbolic colour codes and the involvement of Mauritian schools.
The Intercontinental Museum is admittedly a work in progress and we were grateful to have been able to share our propositions and ideas for the future of the exhibition. Those two visits were a historically enriching and ludicrous experience for the whole class and glorious way to end the year.
TEXT : Kaveesh NAGGEA, Terminale G3 et reporter for LLB
Pictures : Shamima SHIMJEE, English Teacher