SEYCHELLES PROMOTE UNESCO WHS BID FOR MISSION LODGE IN MADRID MEETING
Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism and Culture met at the sidelines of Spain’s premier tourism exhibition FITUR with the UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai, to discuss, among other issues of mutual interest, the country’s bid to be elected to the prestigious Executive Council later this year, but also to seek support for efforts to have UNESCO accept the Mission Lodge as a third national UNCESCO World Heritage Site.
Taleb Rifai, who was present at last year’s Carnival International de Victoria in the Seychelles knows the country well and had toured various sites, and therefore understands the archipelago’s commitment to conservation and heritage well. The meeting in Madrid took place alongside Seychelles promoting holidays to the islands in Spain, using the one stop airline connections available via Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, which fly to all the key airports in Spain and connect those seeking that holiday of a lifetime through their hubs in the Gulf.
Minister St. Ange was quoted to have said: ‘Mission Lodge was formerly known as Venn’s Town in the 1870s. It was set up by the Church Missionary Society, a philanthropic group in 1876 to 1889 to accommodate children of liberated slaves. The site is situated on top of a mountain at 450 meters in a national park, far from the main town area, a place unique in biodiversity and history and commanding one of the best panoramic views of the islands. The last batch of liberated slaves landed in Seychelles in 1875, but Venn’s Town still accepted children born of African parents working as labourers and on plantations. The site symbolizes the beginning of formal education and Christianity for the liberated slave children of Seychelles. The site was an important stop along the slave route in the 18th and 19th century in the Indian Ocean and Eastern Africa, and was also an important element in the makeup of the African Diaspora. Venn’s Town of Mission Lodge is a site that demonstrates something in human life that is regrettable, but that took place. It represents an event in the whole world in terms of slavery. These are the symbols of freedom. Venn’s town is the only site in the world that served freed slave children. It is today inhabited and begging to be recognized by the world as a unique historical Site for the World’.
After the meeting Minister St. Ange also told the media that the UNWTO Secretary General was supportive of the call by Seychelles to seek the support of the world body, UNESCO, to work with Seychelles to protect the Slave Ruins of Mission Lodge for posterity. ‘We are after protecting this site for all to see. A cultural site with a million dollar view, but for us in Seychelles, a site with a unique cultural dimension out of the commercialization world. We need it to become a site for the world, which is why we are after seeking UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Site’.
When returning to the archipelago next week to report about the 3rd edition of the already globally renowned Carnival International de Victoria this correspondent will once again visit the Mission Lodge site to see what progress has been made since the last site inspection, so expect ‘live reporting’ from Seychelles, truly Another World in just a couple of days.