Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mauritius Off the Beaten Path

Alliance Française of Toronto is celebrating International Creole Month with Mauritius, Off the Beaten Path, a photography show by Peggy Lampotang at Galerie Pierre Léon, 24 Spadina Road, from October 5th to 31st, 2011.

Mauritius is one of many Creole-speaking countries. Haiti, Guadeloupe, among others, share similar Creole heritage through French colonization. The language was developed by African slaves who worked on sugarcane plantations and helped with the construction of roads and buildings. Creole, considered a vernacular French, is now recognized as an official language.

Colonized by the French in 1715, and later by the English from 1810 to 1968 when it gained its independence, Mauritius is a country where inhabitants of French, African, Indian, and Chinese origin are united through the Creole language. The melding of races has created a general population, also called Creole, which forms a large part of its working class.

To live in Canada, photographer Peggy Lampotang left this lush island with its azure ocean, but the island has never left her. You may have heard of Mauritius, its famous blue penny stamp, its extinct dodo bird, the miracle of its economic growth, or perhaps enjoyed lying on its pristine beach, the one where Prince William spent his holidays. But beyond this enchanting façade, there are faces of people going about their daily chores, faces that the photographer invites you to discover off the beaten path.

In spite of its financial success and its skyscrapers, Mauritius still harbours makeshift houses assembled from panels of old corrugated aluminum where some live with so little that one is surprised by their warmth. These children who wander freely in the ocean, these fishermen who throw their nets at the crack of dawn, these street vendors who sell fruits, tomatoes, chicken, and noodles, their faces are sometimes marked by a hard life, but their resourcefulness and survival instinct prevail. Does their inspiration come from the intuitive communion with the natural wilderness, and the ever-present ocean?

Exhibition Opening : Wednesday October 5th at 6:30 pm at Alliance Française de Toronto, 24 Spadina Road
RSVP à or 416 922 2014 ext 37

Île Maurice hors des sentiers touristiques

L’Alliance Française de Toronto célèbre le mois créole avec Île Maurice, hors des sentiers touristiques, une exposition de photos de Peggy Lampotang à la Galerie Pierre Léon. Alliance Française de Toronto du 5 au 31 Octobre, 2011.

L’île Maurice, Haïti, la Guadeloupe et bien d’autres, partagent le même héritage créole issu de la colonisation française. Le créole a été développé par les esclaves d’origine africaine qui travaillaient dans les champs de cannes à sucre ou à la construction de rues et de bâtiments. Le créole, considéré comme un patois français, est maintenant devenue une langue officielle.

Colonisée par les français en 1715, puis par les anglais de 1810 à 1968, l’année où elle obtient son indépendance, l’île Maurice réunit des habitants d’origine française, africaine, indienne, et chinoise par une langue commune, le créole. Ce brassage donne naissance à la population dite créole qui fait largement partie de la classe ouvrière de l’île.

Pour vivre au Canada, la photographe Peggy Lampotang a quitté cette île verdoyante avec son océan d’azur, mais cette île, elle, ne l’a jamais quitté. Vous avez peut-être entendu parler de l'île Maurice, de son fameux timbre ‘blue penny’, de son dodo disparu, ou du miracle de sa croissance économique, ou vous avez peut-être eu le plaisir de vous allonger sur ses belles plages, là où le Prince William a passé ses vacances. Mais derrière cette façade féerique, il y a le visage, les visages de ce peuple, qui s’en va à son labeur, des visages que ce photographe vous invite à découvrir hors des sentiers touristiques.

Malgré son succès financier et ses gratte-ciels, l’île Maurice abrite encore des maisons assemblées de vieux panneaux en tôle où les gens vivent avec si peu qu’on s’étonne de leur nature chaleureuse. Ces enfants qui gambadent librement dans l’océan, ces pêcheurs qui lancent leurs filets à la première lueur du matin, ces vendeurs qui nous offrent leurs fruits, tomates, poulets, et nouilles, aux visages sont parfois marqués par une vie dûre, mais des visages qui montrent une force et un esprit de survie. Leur inspiration vient-elle de cette communion intuitive avec la nature sauvage et l'infini de l’océan?

Vernissage : mercredi 5 octobre à 18h30 à l’Alliance Française de Toronto, 24 Spadina Road.
RSVP à ou 416 922 2014 poste 37

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Mauritius is very much on my mind these days. I visited the island with intense emotions a few weeks ago. First there was the high school reunion, which you can see on youtube thanks to Andy Wilkinson, our videographer extraordinaire ... This article in a Mauritian newspaper also sums up the wonderful time. It was so heart-warming to reconnect with school friends, and so awesome to go back in time, singing old songs, and feeling like a teenager all over again.

During my stay, I was lucky to meet a few talented artists, writers, and photographers who are changing the creative landscape of the island by sharing their giftedness with others. Their generosity and open-mindedness was inspiring.

Krishna Luchoomun, an accomplished visual artist who believes in bringing other artists together in non-conventional shows, put together a collective exhibition Art in the Forest by artists from countries along the Indian Ocean. It was a fascinating experience to walk through the damp forest, breathing in its earthy smell, and discovering a tree resplendent in aluminum foil, sleeping beauty waiting in her white bed, fat dodo birds gazing at us ... Ahhh conceptual art ... how it tickles our senses and imagination.

Barlen Pyamootoo, a brilliant writer who obtained the French literary prize, Prix du Roman Francophone for his book Benares, also directed a movie from the same book, that was featured at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2005. This author believes in sharing his love of literature with aspiring writers on the island, and created L’atelier de l’Ecriture, a series of workshops which culminates in an annual publication of the best work from these students. What incredible opportunities this dedicated teacher provides for the future generation of Mauritian writers.

Jameel Peerally, an outstanding photographer and teacher who kindly let me accompany him during some of his photography outings with his students, directs his discerning eyes not only to photography but to social justice. His photography book titled Chagossians orphans of the world, shows the plight of this nation's forced exile by the British to make way for an American military base. He is currently having a group exhibition titled In Focus to show the excellent work of his students. He is also spearheading a youth movement to protest the current state of affairs on the island, which you can read in more details in this manifesto. Sending him my support for a peaceful march and hope the movement will achieve positive changes for the island.

And last but not least, I'm preparing for a photography show on Mauritius in October at Galerie Pierre Léon at Alliance Française de Toronto. A bit overwhelmed lately by Mauritius, that tiny precious island in the Indian Ocean. Will post more info about the show soon.