Inauguration of the Intercontinental Slavery Museum in Port-Louis (Mauritius)

The Intercontinental Slavery Museum opened to the public on 4th September 2023 in Port-Louis (Mauritius), twelve years after the creation of the Truth and Justice Commission, set up with the aim of reconciling the Mauritian population with its history.

This new museum dedicated to slavery has been opened in the former military hospital of Port Louis. The building, constructed in 1740 under Mahé de Labourdonnais, Governor of Ile de France, was one of the first major constructions put up in this former French colony.

Vue de Port-Louis Ouest. 1859. Source : Blue Penny Museum

The location is highly significant. The building was constructed by slaves and bears the memory of this painful period of the island’s history.

The restoration project, covering several years, has been financed by the Mauritian government, donations from the heritage lottery, as well as contributions from France, Japan and the United States. Researchers and students from the University of Nantes and the Aquitaine Museum in Bordeaux contributed their know-how and expertise regarding the organisation of the different spaces in the museum.

The challenge of the scenography consisted in providing visitors with an immersive experience of the different atmospheres, enabling them to experience the intense emotions linked to this chapter of the island’s history. The aim was to give a voice to the slaves, reflecting aspects of their resistance, rather than the physical conditions of their day-to-day lives.

The experience is a multi-sensorial one, with exhibits including documents on the slaves’ culture and music. In one of exhibition rooms, loudspeakers have been set up to broadcast early Sega music that has never been recorded in the form of musical scores. In another room is exhibited an original copy of the Black Code, on loan to the museum from the Carnegie library in Curepipe. The document, drawn up under XIV, legislated on the condition of enslaved persons.

Among the exhibits, visitors can, notably, appreciate objects that belonged to slaves, unearthed during archaeological digs carried out in 2021 and 2022 in the old cemetery of Albion: buttons, tools made of bone, earrings and a rosary.


In particular, visitors are confronted with a somewhat troubling and moving image: 63 ethnographical busts created by Eugène de Froberville in 1846 in a plantation on Mauritius Island. These plaster faces were cast from those of slaves coming from Mauritius, Tanzania and the Comoros. The busts, property of the town council of Blois in France and conserved at the château of the town, are presented in digital format. An agreement has been signed between ISM Mauritius Ltd and Blois so that they may be exhibited in Port-Louis once all the conditions for their conservation at the Museum have been set up.

The current exhibition is in a pre-representation phase and is the basis of the final version of the future museum once it is ready.



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