Back in 1998, when I first visited Mauritius, I discovered that my wife-to-be’s mother was raised and lived in a colonial house in Port-Louis. When I saw the house, I told to myself: “one day, I’ll own a similar colonial house and I’ll live in it”. Never could I have imagined, that 14 years later, I would be thinking of a photography project around the colonial houses to try to save them !

Indeed, in less than 2 decades, hundreds of colonial houses and other old style houses have been demolished in Mauritius. 10 years ago, I bought a wonderful book called “Vivre à l’Ile Maurice – la vie en varangue” – in this book are photographed more than a hundred of houses; today in 2012, less than 50% of those houses are still here ! This is a reality, and this is a reality of NOW – from the few houses (6) I have visited last week-end, 1 has been destroyed in 2012, 1 is promised to be destroyed in 2013, and 2 are in such a bad shape that they could simply collapse at any time.

Most of those houses are privately owned by Mauritian families, but some of them are owned by the State. We can argue that the cost of maintenance for those houses is high, but if it is well done on a regular basis, it is not unacceptable … and anyway, this cost is still far less than the one of destroying the house and building something new in concrete. We can also argue that the colonial houses is more a “white people” patrimony which is not linked to a positive past for most of the Mauritian – but here again, this is the history of the island, its culture and architecture and it has to be protected – in Poland for instance, they have not destroyed the Auschwitz site where millions of people were murdered. After all, I think it is simply a matter of choice and of willingness, and I believe it has to come from the State – for instance, some houses should be classified as Mauritian national patrimony and thus cannot be destroyed, even if they are privately owned. In France, it’s the case for a lot of castles, houses, monuments … And I truly believe that this goes in a positive direction for tourism,which is one of the most important pillar of the Mauritian economy. If Mauritius destroys its cultural patrimony, it will lose a lot of interest. Well, at least, this is my opinion.

So that’s why, with a Mauritian friend, we have decided to gather old and new images in a photography project to try to raise the awareness of whoever is interested with history, culture, architecture … ; the awareness that we have to do something, and we have to do it now ! Because who knows what will have happened in a few years if we don’t do anything now. This project will maybe end up with a book, we’ll see. But for sure, I’ll keep you posted here and there about it ! 😉

Here are a few images that I recently took:

1. My family-in-law house in Port-Louis – if there is one colonial house that I want to save myself, it’s this one. It is currently the location of a Mauritian company.

Colonial house Port-Louis

Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis

2. A couple of houses in Moka – the first one is promised to demolition in 2013, while the second one is hosting an office (which is a good way to rehabilitation):

Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka   Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka

3. A very pretty house on the verge to collapse – from the outside, it still looks nice, except the roof; but once inside, the wooden parts are all rotten and it’s dangerous to walk in it !

Mon repos - Mount  Mon repos - Mount  Mon Repos - Mount

4. This is not a typical colonial house, but an old convent built in 1864 by the English. This is owned by the State.

Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Le Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudreCouvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre

5. Finally, to finish on a positive note, here are 3 excellent examples of how to develop cultural attractions for those precious architectural jewels:

– Eureka House in Moka: museum, restaurant, hosting place for events

Maison Eureka, Moka  Maison Eureka, Moka

– Château Labourdonnais: museum, restaurant, hosting place for events, famous for its mangoes

Château Labourdonnais  Château Labourdonnais

– Mogador: an exceptional colonial house dated 1888 transformed into a beach villa to rent

Mogador  Mogador