- Farzeen Heesambee
Preserving the Mauritian patrimony
It saddens me to see how the Mauritian governments over the years have allowed the systematic destruction of the Mauritian landscape and cultural heritage. I remember the days where you could go to the beach and you have to walk a couple of miles before you could see a hotel obstructing the natural landscape of the beach and sea. I am lucky to have travelled around a bit and I am always amazed on my travels on how the locals have preserved their historical buildings, their natural landscape and so on.
The last time I visit
ed the island, a dreadful amount of beaches were closed off to the public as they are now hotel properties and private properties. Tourism is one of the main pillar of the economy and I get that, but there are different types of tourists around the world, maybe it’s time to cater for those tourists who respect that the beaches are public property and to sanction those who see the beach as a business enterprise. Why not encourage tourists to experience the Mauritian lifestyle, this type of tourism is way friendlier for the island as a whole.
My heart broke upon hearing the news that a shopping mall wil be constructed on our heritage site of Tamarin saltpans. ‘Saltpans’, meaning Les Salines in French which is also the Mauritian term. I was born in Les Salines in Port-Louis but never saw a single saltpan, i always wondered why the place was called Les Salines and yet there was not a single residue of its historic salt making process. We have failed to preserve the authenticity of this Creole island, and our own history and identity in more ways than we can count.
In the current and previous governments’ quests for globalisation and modernisation, we have left behind what is truly ours, what makes this place, Mauritius. An island where corruption rules and the highest bidder can inherit and do whatever he likes with our national patrimony. Having establish Apravasi Ghat and Le Morne Brabant as UNESCO World Heritage is where we started and stopped at. A country that cannot see that our heritage is not only linked to our ancestors who came from elsewhere but also to our ancestors who were born on the island. Alas, the communities are so divided that they cannot get past their ancestors’ country of origin and forgot first and foremost that we are Mauritians.
I do not get involve in politics, I have my opinions but I do not engage in political discussions unless I feel strongly about it. Yesterday upon reading about shopping malls being built on Les Salines in Tamarin, I experienced a form of anger that never before I had experienced, i remembered the school trips to the saltpans, or whenever we passed by Tamarin, the excitement i felt ;i was always on the lookout for the saltpans. A few years ago, i took my kids to Mauritius and purposely took them on a trip to Tamarin so they could see the saltpans, but i was utterly disappointed to see that they had stopped all salt-making business in Mauritius and it angered me to learn that an island surrounded by saltwater can but will not produce its own salt but would rather import and thereby pay for the cost of importation of salt from South Africa. There is no logic in this, and i don’t think anybody can even point out how this is beneficial for the economy of the country.
Truly beloved country of mine, you have lost your authenticity and they want you to just be a dot on the map and nothing more, there is no Mark Twain’s reference to paradise, there is no Paul et Virginie of Benardin de St Pierre, you are just a place with no identity, a country with no soul as everyday they keep taking more from you.
PS: I have written to UNESCO and ask others to do so too. https://whc.unesco.org/en/world-heritage-centre/