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:
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.
I scout some of the earliest religious sites on the island- including the Jummah Mosque, Kailasam Temple, and Gookoola temple.
Invite to scout the interior of a rare Port-Louis French colonial house.
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. 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. 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.
Discovery of a box of family photos in an old biscuit tin left in an outhouse.
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. 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.
Search for materials takes me to an auction house where I meet the auctioneer Monsieur Lazzare who agrees to assist me.
I finally locate some abandoned items for my first installation at the French Institute.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visit to Natural history museum archives in Port Louis- great drawings by early Dutch explorers of Dodos and the Aphanaptery Bonasia (Red Hen).
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.
Visit to Mare Chicose dump in search of materials for the next series of installation works is unsuccessful.
Site recce at Rochester falls in the south of the island.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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: