The Intercontinental Slavery Museum was officially opened by the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, this afternoon, in Port Louis. An Exposition de Préfiguration was also launched for the occasion.
The Intercontinental Slavery Museum, which has showcased temporary exhibitions since 2020, will be opened to the public as from 04 September 2023. This follows renovations work to the site of the ex-Labourdonnais Military Hospital which houses the Museum.
Several eminent dignitaries attended the opening ceremony including the Vice-President of the Republic of Mauritius, Mr Eddy Boissézon; the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Housing and Land Use Planning, Minister of Tourism, Mr Louis Steven Obeegadoo; the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun; the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Local Government and Disaster Risk Management, Dr Mohammad Anwar Husnoo; the Minister of Arts and Cultural Heritage, Mr Avinash Teeluck; Members of Parliament and of the Diplomatic Corps; the Chairperson of the Intercontinental Slavery Museum, Mr Jean-Maxy Simonet.
The Assistant Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Social and Human Sciences Sector, Mrs Gabriela Ramos, conveyed her congratulations for the highly symbolic event via video.
In his address for the occasion, the Prime Minister recalled that the setting-up of the museum was one of the key recommendations of the 2012 Report of the Truth and Justice Commission, whose mandate was to, among others, investigate the history of slavery and its consequences in Mauritius. He stressed that the opening of the Intercontinental Slavery Museum was an important step in the duty to remember the sacrifice and pain of those victims of the slave trade as well as their resilience and contribution in the cultural, social and economic development of the country.
The Prime Minister pointed out, too, the high significance of the location of the Museum in one of the oldest building in Mauritius, constructed by slaves in 1740 under the French governorship of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais, and located near the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage site. Mr Jugnauth expressed his gratitude to the Republic of France, the United States of America, and Japan for the assistance extended in the renovation of the site and establishment of the Intercontinental Slavery Museum.
The role of the Museum in the preservation of cultural heritage, and the diffusion of knowledge about the history of the country and its people were underlined by the Prime Minister. As he elaborated on the dire consequences of the Code Noir which defined the conditions of slavery, Mr Jugnauth deplored the inhumane ways slaves were treated namely as movable belongings, who could have their ears cut off, be branded with the fleur-de-lis or executed as punishment.
Prime Minister Jugnauth stated that the Museum would therefore not only provide educational and pedagogical materials for the children of the country to learn about the past, but that it would be a place of reflection and remembrance as well as for a better understanding of each other. Mr Jugnauth affirmed that the Museum could thus assist in paving the way for a future of equality and mutual respect as well as building bridges between the diversities in the country. He added that it was only by facing the past, that a promising future could be built without repeating past mistakes.