I’ve just been away for two weeks or so, photographing luxury villas/homes all over Mauritius. I quite literally did a tour of the island from South to West to North to East back to South again. It was an intense trip, full of emotional memories (I lived there for a fair chunk of my childhood and have family there) as well as hardwork. In all I took 4029 photographs, a lot were houses but the rest I wanted to photograph little glimpses of my memories still existing, or aspects of Mauritius on the brink of change. Most of the north (and the rest of the island) is a massive building site with Shopping Centres, Resorts and Real Estate popping up everywhere. It’s disturbing, for me at least. It’s only a small island really with such massive “empty” projects everywhere. The only place I’ve been to where I saw as many (and more ofc) of these projects was Texas. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time in Texas, it’s a crazy place with crazy people in it. I guess being used to the UK’s lack of space, seeing such large spaces “wasted” hurts a little. It’s like people don’t know what to do with space other than to BUILD SOMETHING BIGGER THAN SOMEONE ELSE BUILT IT. Anyway, this was something I’d probably be interested to go back and study some more, I’m not quite sure why… because usually I’m into such personal studies, perhaps it’s the Jetlag.
Apart from these “Monstrosities”, there are some incredible things being built and introduced in Mauritius. I remember as a child that the culture side of the island was distinctively lacking but this is progressing more and more as time goes on. There are decent Cinemas and I’ve read lots about some of the theatre/music scene getting better. You have to remember that this is just my impression, I’m incredibly biased in both directions, being from there (partly) and also, living in such a different world at the same time.
There is one thing that was wonderful, the sheer happiness in the people in general, I don’t think I’ve seen so many smiles there as I have anywhere else in two weeks. Actually, I think my road trip up England to Scotland last year is probably another time there were lots of smiles. Some of these smiles included, a roadside fruit stall guy who told us all about his business and how it’s changed, then there was our female butler who despite her age was excellently trained, friendly and fun too, and lastly the darling maids who greeted us everyday with a smile and a chat about indian culture (they henna’d my hand). There were so many different small exchanges like those which made me realise that this Island may be changing but some things would always be the same.
I know where I live now, changes are happening all around me constantly, but for some reason these aren’t quite as intense. Perhaps it’s because the sites that are important to me have not changed… yet. How will I feel when I come back to this house years from now and see it’s a gap in a row of houses, being rebuilt into something else? This is what I experienced from the oldest house I can remember living in Mauritius, you drive up the road and there’s just an empty lot with houses all round. Such a strange experience. Even just seeing my other houses, it felt like I was seeing a ghost. These places had existed in my memories as ghosts of the past, just pieces of my imaginations, just unreal locations that were important to me. Then to go there and be confronted with their existence, it still twangs at my heart. I wonder if many people get the same experience, I never thought experiencing the past was so painful even if it was a happy time.
I think I’ve spoken long enough about the changes of Mauritius that I noticed in general, I could write pages and pages on it but that would be no use.