Shame and Resistance in the Post-Colony:
Plantation Legacies and Racial Hierarchies in the Mascarene Islands
A lecture by artist Shiraz Bayjoo
Friday, February 12th, 2021
11am EST / on Zoom
The Indian Ocean region, home to the multiple crossovers of Africa and Asia, would eventually shape European ambitions of Empire. Through colonization its sea routes and boundaries would be re-drawn from the movement of spice and silks to include the burgeoning demand for flesh and labour. It is at these sites of intense production that the plantation colonies of the Mascarene Islands were born. Previously uninhabited and strategically positioned, Mauritius was established early on as a slave colony. First settled by the Dutch, it was under French rule that the islands sugar plantations expanded, and ruled by the ‘Code Noir’ it would become known as the Maroon republic. Under the abolition of slavery, the island would later serve as the site for the ‘Great Experiment’, as the British replaced the demand for labour on its plantations with the Indenture labor system. This presentation will explore how racial hierarchies persist through reductionist narratives, exposing the enduring legacies of the Plantocracy. Through his ongoing practice and research focus, Shiraz Bayjoo unpacks how Mauritius’s Kreol identity is formed of Afro-Indo origins, and it is here through defiance from slave uprisings and escape into maroon communities where narratives of resistance and resilience begin to create new pathways of de-colonisation.
Shiraz Bayjoo is a Mauritian artist based between London and Mauritius. He has exhibited at Tate Britain and the Institute of International Visual Arts, London; New Art Exchange, Nottingham; 5th Edition Dhaka Art Summit; 14th Biennale of Sharjah; 13th Biennale of Dakar; 21st Biennale of Sydney; and is a recipient of the Gasworks Fellowship and the Arts Council of England.
Two videos by the artist are available for view from February 10-12, 2021:
Pran Kouraz (Take Courage)
5th Edition Dhaka Art Summit, 2020 + Art Night London, 2019
2k Digital 16mm Single Channel, 14 min 48 sec
Surface to Horizon
Site specific video and sound installation at Clark House Initiative, Mumbai 2017
Two channel video + Stereo sound, 5 mins 6 secs
This lecture is part of the year-long project Oceanic Imaginations, led by Mana Kia and Debashree Mukherjee from the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS).