Le Morne Cultural Heritage Mauritius

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Also known as the ‘Wild South’, Le Morne Cultural Heritage is an erect mountain of 556 metres with a flat summit of 12 hectares that symbolises the way to freedom to the Creole community of Mauritius. During the 18th and 19th century, slaves on the island used the mountain as a hiding place because of its location and difficulty of access. Research these past years by local and foreign historians have revealed tangible evidence that slaves were indeed hiding there; objects found include bones dating back to that time period as well as kitchen utensils used by them. In 2008, the site became one of the world heritage sites in the world under UNESCO. In the past, slavery was a common thing and slave trade was being done worldwide; Mauritius, given its wonderful location in the Indian Ocean, was a main point for rest and also a platform for this trade. At the same time, people occupying the island also had their load of slaves to work for them. So, whenever possible, the slaves either working on the island or destined for trade would escape and find refuge on the Le Morne Mountain. Yet this freedom was no easy task; at the time such acts resulted in death and the maroons thus had to live in constant fear of being caught with no food and poor shelter. In 1835, when slavery was globally abolished, some British soldiers went to deliver the good news to the refugees. But on seeing them approach, the maroons did not know that they were being set free and thus jumped off the mountain into the ocean. In this respect, the 1st February has been proclaimed a public holiday on the island to mark the difficulties that the Creole community has gone through to achieve their freedom. The mountain itself is of basaltic nature formed some 8-10 million years ago. There are a number of cracks which are believed to have been used as shelters for the slaves (evidence of their presence like bones and utensils has been found in them). The foothills of the mountain is characterised by thick vegetation while the mountain slopes are intertwined with cracks and steep valleys. Interestingly, the site also is home to a few rare plants in the world such as the Trochetia boutoniana and the Mandrinette. Much of the information concerning the site has been accumulated via oral means of the descendants of the slaves living in the village of Le Morne. The Mauritian community is an amalgam of these slaves (Africa, Madagascar, South East Asia, India) and as such the area is of special importance to each of them; Le Morne Cultural Heritage is a place of liberty intertwined with religious and cultural beliefs, a sacred site for all Mauritians.

Simpson
Simpson Published 08 Feb 2011

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