Wow, what a weekend. Excitement had been building up around the island for a first of its kind event in Mauritius – a real cultural event, a “festival dans capitale”, and above all, an absolutely free event. The unmatched budget for this event was a pleasant surprise for Mauritians, who have never witnessed such a huge, amazing show, all designed to put forward the wealth Port Louis had to offer in terms of history and culture. Suddenly, everybody forgot about the other woes of the country, and this is all they could talk about – Festival dans Capitale!
As a die hard lover of the capital, I always knew Port Louis was special: its cobbled streets, old buildings from the colonial age, the proximity with the sea…
I had never imagined wandering in the Port Louis streets at night. During the day, it was hard enough to walk around in the streets bustling with busy people and ruthless drivers. Not to mention, the scorching heat. More importantly, Port Louis by night could never be envisaged because after work hours, the streets became suddenly eerily deserted, with only homeless people, drunkards and prostitutes claiming the capital for themselves. This is what made this weekend even more magical – Mauritians of all kinds walking along side these rejects of society, all of them similarly awed like children at all the beauty in Port Louis…
Seeing the old Port Louis theatre put in the limelight after all these years of abandon brought a lot of nostalgia. When I was much younger, I used to read some of my written work there every Friday evening. The place was magical, and the video projected on its street facade showed all the forgotten, amazing possiblities that a theatre can bring to a city. I hope this can open people’s eyes, especially those in power, to the importance of art and places of art in a country. It is of paramount urgency to restore places like Theatre de Port Louis and Plaza back to their glorious state.
I also really enjoyed the singing trees in Jardin De la Compagnie, or like Mauritians love to call it, Zardin Compayi. In the daylight Zardin Compayi is a busy and fairly dirty place. The huge banyans that are probably more than 100 years old go mostly unnoticed. During Porlwi by Light, these majestic banyans were given voices to share their feelings with those walking through the Zardin, making the walk quite surreal and amazing.
La Vielle Prison – an 18th century women’s prison – was a building in ruins next to NPF Building. It has always been there, never been properly restored, and nobody took notice of it till now. Artists exposed in each of the 2x2m cells, portraying “evasion in confinement”. Another completely free and accessible art exhibition for Mauritians to enjoy.
The turnout of Porlwi by light is proof that Mauritians have a thirst for events like this. Mauritians love culture, art, lights, music, food! Each of them probably went to bed that night feeling proud to be a Mauritian. Events like this centred on art, culture, history is key to restoring a sense of patriotism. And I personally think that those 40,000 square metres should always be kept free of traffic, like the heart of big cities elsewhere in the world.
I saw Ministers, CEOs and the like in the crowd of people in Port Louis this weekend. I hope things change and they realise that we have now more than 40 years of independence, it is now time to look at things differently, and value what needs to be valued…
Like one of the organisers said “Without culture, we are all poor”. I would like to thank them for this great initiative, and I hope this becomes an annual event. How about Mahebourg next time?
Check out PORLWI by Light’s facebook page for more pictures of the event: https://www.facebook.com/porlwi/