MISSION LODGE REDEVELOPMENT GATHERS MOMENTUM AS UNESCO BID GOES UNDERWAY
The Seychelles Ministry of Culture and Tourism is now working with the Seychelles Heritage Foundation to bring the Mission Lodge back to life with new displays tracing the freed young slaves as they made this place their home.
Representatives from the Seychelles Destination Management Companies joined Alain St. Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture a few days ago as he toured the Mission Lodge Slave Ruins accompanied by Patrick Nanty, the CEO of the Heritage Foundation, Benjamine Rose, the Principal Secretary for Culture, Elsia Grandcourt, the CEO of the Tourism Board and Sherin Renaud, the Principal Secretary for Tourism and other members of the Tourism and Culture Departments.
Senior staff of 7 Degrees South, Creole Travel Services, Mason’s Travel Pty Ltd, Select Seychelles and Seychelles Connect Booking Service were given an insight of the planned enhancement projects to rehabilitate the Slave Ruins of Mission Lodge to make it an important historical excursion for Destination Management Companies (DMC).
The company representatives were briefed on the proposed building of a “pavilion design” reception and information centre in an hitherto open area near the side of the current car park which will subsequently be resurfaced and used as a drop off area only.
In addition, there are plans to put proper signage on both heritage and historical value of the site, enhancement of visitor’s directional signs and existing viewpoints as well as part restoration of the ruins. Proposed parking on a plot of land opposite the main entrance will help to reduce congestion on the existing parking area.
Following a short presentation of the proposed projects, the Destination Management Companies concluded that Mission Lodge is a place of historical value with potential for future development. They went on to comment that ‘Mission Lodge should bring a new experience and with what is being planned Seychelles will have a more meaningful product for visitors paying an entrance fee to visit this unique historical site’.
Maxwell Julie, the Project Manager of National Heritage Foundation, pointed out that Creole Travel Services and Mason’s Travel Pty Ltd are looking at assisting with the building of the reception / information area and that Creole Travel Services is also looking at assisting with works to grade the land for the proposed parking area for Mission Lodge. Minister Alain St. Ange explained that it was time for Mission Lodge to be given its rightful place as a Seychelles historical site and he announced that the Ministry of Tourism and Culture was looking at seeking support to make these Slave Ruins a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it was unique in its own right.
‘The historical aspect of Mission Lodge is being forgotten and overshadowed by its breathtaking panoramic view. An important chapter in Seychelles history is engraved in Mission Lodge, and this aspect should constitute the central attraction of the site’ Minister St. Ange was quoted to have said. He then went on to say: ‘From today we need to see all we discussed translated into concrete actions’.
Mission Lodge, formerly known as ‘Venn Town’ was set up in the 19th Century by a missionary society to educate the children of the first black slaves to be freed in Seychelles. Today these ruins, sitting on what is considered the most exclusive viewing spot from high up on the island of Mahe, hold the walls of the school, dormitories and village occupied by young slaves as they were freed and landed in Seychelles. The small cemetery where some are buried was cleared along with the grave of the son of the initial missionary who managed this project. In 2010, Seychelles started the nomination procedure for the Slave Ruins of Mission Lodge to get recognition as the country’s third UNESCO World Heritage status. The National Heritage Foundation and the Research Section of the Culture Department of the Ministry at La Bastille are working together with the Centre for Heritage Development in Africa to make the case for UNESCO’s recognition of the Slave Ruins at Mission Lodge.
Minister Alain St. Ange said that when the Slave Ruins at Mission Lodge earns the UNESCO World Heritage Status it will not only be listed as the third UNESCO site in Seychelles, but it will be the first purely cultural site recognised on the archipelago after the Vallee` de Mai and the Aldabra Atoll.
As Seychelles is putting the final touches for the submission to UNESCO of Mission Lodge’s nomination procedure in October 2013, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, Mr Alain St. Ange said that he will seek the support of the UNWTO to assist Seychelles earn international recognition for a site that needs protection as it is unique. ‘I will use the opportunity on my participation at the end of January UNWTO meeting in Spain to get the name of our Mission Lodge Slave Ruins known and to gain the UNWTO’s support for the Seychelles bid to gain UNESCO World Heritage Status for these Slave Ruins at Mission Lodge. We must preserve what is left of this era and these ruins are unique as they are protecting the young generation who fell victim to a practice of gone bye days’ the Minister Alain St.Ange was quoted in a press release. One more thing to look forward to see by visitors to the Seychelles, which remains truly Another World.