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Taking up residence at pARTage, Mauritius, is UK-based artist Shiraz Bayjoo. Originally from Mauritius himself, Bayjoo uses painting, sculpture and film to investigate Mauritian identity and the historical, social and political landscape that forms this identity. Narratives in his work reference colonial seafarers and other fragments of the French and British Empire that still remain evident in Mauritian identity. During his time in Mauritius Bayjoo will be spending time in public and little known private archives researching and uncovering the visual identity of the island. This archival research will feed into the creation of installation works that will accompany a film entitled Ile de France. You can read more about this film project here. pARTage has been based in Flic en Flac, Mauritius, since 2003. It is an artist-led organisation dedicated to the development of contemporary art in Mauritius through workshops, events, exhibitions, educational initiatives, and artists’ residencies. You can find out more about pARTage here. Bayjoo has been keeping a diary of his time on Fellowship in Mauritius and we have been lucky enough to have access this and to be able to share with you his work, research and experiences of the island:

 

WEEK 8

Location scouting with historian Jean Marie Celin-I visit several sites in the north of the island, including Balaklava water mill and sugar estate ruins, 19 Century romanticism statues from Paris in the heart of the port, an abandoned orphanage for the freed slave and indentured labour camps.

 

 

 Balaklava  Forbach

 

 

PowderM1  PowderM2

 

 

Cleopatra

 

 

Meeting with the Blue Penny museum- requesting access to their archive- they grant permission for use of some images. The museum holds the Mauritian Commercial banks private archive and collection.

 

 

Blue-Penny

 

 

I scout some of the earliest religious sites on the island- including the Jummah Mosque, Kailasam Temple, and Gookoola temple.

 

 

Kailasam Gokoola

 

 

Jummah

 

 

Invite to scout the interior of a rare Port-Louis French colonial house.

 

 

Gonin1 Gonin2

 

 

 

 

 

Following the recommendations of historian Satyendra Peerthum I scout the Grand Riviere area- exploring several sites including a 19 century jail for slaves.

 

 

 

 

 

Mill  Vagrant-depot

 

WEEK 7

Meeting with historian Jean Marie Celin who suggests some hidden sites around the north of the island to scout as potential locations in the film. He also generously shares a large selection of archival photographs and post cards.  JMC1 Meeting with Mauritian Film Development Corporation to discuss shooting schedules and permits. Visit to the Folk museum at the Mahatma Ghandi Institute- the museum focuses on Indian indentured labour to Mauritius. FolkM Meeting with the Le Morne heritage trust- Le Morne mountain is a Unesco world heritage site. It is described as having held a large maroon (escaped slave) community living on and around the mountain. I visit the surrounding site including a recently discovered cemetery in a coastal forest flood plain, and a Banyan tree site where free slaves would practice Sega dancing and share oral histories linking back to their African and Malagasy roots.  

LM3LM4 LM1 LM2

Discovery of a box of family photos in an old biscuit tin left in an outhouse.

FP1       FP2  

Visit to a Martello tower in the East of the island- reveals a great fading interior of stalactites and mineral deposits. Martello  I recce the church of St. Brigitte in Palmie. St-Brigitte

WEEK 6

 

 

 

After presenting the project to the board of directors at the Mauritian postal service I’m allowed access to their archive. Early postmen in the French administrative era were slaves.

 

 

 

 

 

Postal2Postal1

 

 

I am also given access to the Port Louis postal sorting house as a potential location for the film. A historic site- originally a prison for escaped slaves- it later became a hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

Sortinghouse2  Sortinghouse3

 

 

 

 

 

I begin a new series of paintings on paper and continue to work on some new installation pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

NewWorks2

 

 

 

 

 

NewWorks1

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting with historian at the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund- who gives me advice on some interesting locations to scout. (Aapravasi Ghat is an immigration museum and research centre focusing on the period of indentured labour in Mauritius).

 

 

 

 

 

AVG AVG2

 

 

 

WEEK 5 Archive research continues- National history museum in Mahebourg where I find a great selection of Lithographs, maps and photographs. The museum director kindly allows me to document some of the material. MaheMuseum2    MaheMuseum1 Site recce takes me to a Catholic grave yard hidden in a sugar cane field, and to the village of Cassis and the St Sacrement church.

 

GraveSacrement2

 

Search for materials takes me to an auction house where I meet the auctioneer Monsieur Lazzare who agrees to assist me.

Auction1Auction2

I finally locate some abandoned items for my first installation at the French Institute.

Furniture1 Interview for Mauritian TV-where I give a call out asking families with home videos from Pre-1980s to contact me. TV

 

 

WEEK 4

Mr Breville from the Photographic museum in Port Louis agrees to allow me use of some of the images from his archive. Breville2

Site recce in the south of the island- I visit the Black River and record sounds in the rain forests. This is the last remaining area of rain forest on the island.

Rain-Forest2 Rain-Forest3

 

Rain-Forest1

 

 

I move on to Le Morne Mountain a Unesco site, which was the last hiding place for maroons (escaped slaves). It is privately owned with no public access. 

 

 

LeMorne

 

Visit to Salon de Mai- Mauritius’s annual open call exhibition at the MGI university, where I see works by my host at Partage Krishna Luchooman.

SalonMai      KrishnaL

 

Site recce- the tomb of Pere Laval one of the few priests that tried to alleviate the hard ships of ex-slaves, during a period when French Catholicism supported slavery and gave theological reasoning for the continuation of it. PereLaval

WEEK 3

Visit to Natural history museum archives in Port Louis- great drawings by early Dutch explorers of Dodos and the Aphanaptery Bonasia (Red Hen).

Dodo      Aphanapteryx_bonasia

I check out some of the islands art scene, at a local gallery opening. I’m joined by two new artists Maja Godlewska and Marek Ranis at Partage, and we attend a talk at the French institute by Serge Lemoine, director of the Musee D’Orsay.

Atelier     Maja-Marek 

Visit to Mare Chicose dump in search of materials for the next series of installation works is unsuccessful.

Landfill2      Landfill1  

Site recce at Rochester falls in the south of the island.  

RochFalls1   RochFalls3      RochFalls2

WEEK 2

Continuation of location recce in Port Louis- I explore the abandoned central railway station ‘Victoria’ which is now used for a daily vegetable market. I make several tours of the site recording the sounds as I walk. I explore more sites and street furniture around the old civic centre:Victoria-market1

Victoria-market2-1      Street-furniture

Visit to private photographic museum that may have the best photographic archive on the islands. I meet Mr Breville who has been single handedly archiving the country for the past 40 years:

Musee-Photographic      Breville Archive research moves to the National Archives in Coromondel- there are only a few copies of Lithographs and limited photographic material- I gather information and portraits of key figures in the slave trade and the opposition during the late Napoleonic and British period of governance:

Jacques_Laval      Indian-labourers-sugare-estate

WEEK 1

Start of archive research at the National Library- limited material but some interesting photographs of the first independent government and newspapers covering the period of transition from Britain during 1968:

Nat-Lib3 Nat-Lib2         Nat-Lib1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit to the French institute where I will be showing some works at the end of the residency. Visit to the art school at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute where I will be presenting at the end of the residency:

Capture

I begin the final in depth location recce for the Ile de France film, which will be shot in Mauritius from mid-August. This is the final process in forming a detailed visual and audio storyboard. I begin by exploring some of the street furniture built by the British and French, at the Company gardens in Port Louis. There is a loud speaker that broadcasts one of the national radio station, set amongst vines and tropical bird songs:

 

Jarden-Comapny3

 

Jarden-Comapny1    Jarden-Comapny2