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Celebrating heritage – an integral part of Seychelles culture

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa Correspondent  Apr 22, 2016

Coming to the Seychelles always allows for a lot more exploration and discovery than “just the carnival” which in itself of course has become a brand of its own and is no doubt the archipelago's most high-profile event across the year.

However, anyone not going into greater depths while on the islands will arguably miss the point and miss out big time, like a visit to the Heritage Foundation offices yesterday revealed.

It was the day when the Seychelles Heritage Week came to a close and a series of activities took place across the main islands to celebrate history and culture, allowing a peek into past days with an eye on the future.

In particular, school children, now on holiday in the Seychelles, were brought on board, and it is understood that a number of school-based heritage clubs do exist to bring the archipelago's illustrious past to the attention of the next generation.

A major function was held at Venn's Town, where the first ever school for children of freed slaves was built in the 1870s - a site popular with tourists for the view but more so with history buffs who come to see the well-preserved ruins. It is now only a matter of time before, when additional facilities are complete - like a visitor reception center - that UNESCO is expected to inscribe Venn's Town, aka Mission Lodge, into its list of World Heritage sites.

Among the many activities were notably a game day where pupils were able to learn the traditional games being played by their forebears and ancestors, keeping the memory of such traditions alive.

New information boards were put up at several places which should make it into the “must visit” lists of visitors to the islands, as there is truly a lot more to the Seychelles than just sea, sand, sun, and fun.

In the recent past, the Heritage Foundation has developed the Praslin Heritage Route, giving locals and tourists alike an insight of what was, what is, and everything in between, and, on the main island of Mahe, and published a booklet of sites of interest in the island district of Port Glaud, the first of more planned to eventually cover the entire island.

In a related development, the Acting Director General of the Department of Culture, which oversees the National Museum, has also confirmed that the location of the new proposed Maritime Museum has been decided. Besides the Natural History Museum, which also contains a small but interesting Herbarium, the new facility will broadly concentrate on all aspects of shipping and seafarers over the centuries. It will be built on Hodoul Island which is near the Marine Charter Marina in Victoria.

Meanwhile, the Natural History Museum, just a stone’s throw away from the famous Clock Tower, is open for visitors, and an ongoing exhibition of some 20 species of sharks will give visitors an insight into the rich marine life found offshore. Several school groups were visiting including one from Praslin as part of their holiday activities to learn more about the island's past.

Another section houses the exhibits of how the islands were initially formed by granite and coral, and reportedly, in the case of Silhouette, there is now an open question if it may after all be a volcanic island. The oldest piece of rock, taken from an offshore drill, was in fact dated back some 180 million years.

The Aldabra atoll also features in the museum, but it is understood that many exhibits are kept in storage due to the very limited space available, perhaps a reminder for government that a new state-of-the-art museum would now be overdue to widen the range of displays and more comprehensively feature the archipelago's natural attractions. It would no doubt be a crowd puller from among tourists, especially those who arrive on cruise ships and are keen to cram in as much as they can during the day visits.

All this goes to show that when coming to the Seychelles for the Carnival International de Victoria or any other major event like the Festival Kreol, there is a lot more to discover and explore. One only has to know where to look.

Seychelles, truly “Another World.”

Celebrating heritage – an integral part of Seychelles culture

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