UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE: Le Morne and the Fight for Freedom

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE: Le Morne and the Fight for Freedom

On the southwestern coast of Mauritius stand the majestic mountain of Le Morne Brabant. Le Morne Brabant stands tall with its 556m height and is proudly facing the sea and gazing beyond the horizon smitten by dreams and freedom. But within this majestic mountain rest the dark memories of Mauritius. 

Since the early Dutch settlement during the period 1638-1710 slaves were brought to the Mauritius, and since that time marooning was a part of life on Mauritius. When the French settlers came, they began to import slaves from Madagascar, Mozambique, the Swahili coast and South Asia. Many of the slaves fled from the captivity and took refuge in the forests and mountains. Hunted by the authorities, the slaves would danger their life to climb Le Morne for the protection of the isolated inaccessible cliffs, for at little freedom. Le Morne was used as a shelter for runaway slaves and Maroons throughout 18th and early 19th centuries. Maroons formed settlements in the caves on the summit of Le Morne. Because of the many maroons seeking refuge at Le Morne, were it often at the time referred to at “Maroon Republic”.

Local myths stating back to the colonial period reports of a mass suicide of maroons, jumping of the summit of Le Morne instead of going back to slavery. Studies have though failed to demonstrate the truth behind this myth. Therefore the cliff earned its name “Le Morne”, meaning “the Mournful One” in French. 

The Outstanding Value of Le Morne

Le Morne Cultural Landscape stands as an exceptional testimony for the resistance of slavery and Le Morne being a fortress that sheltered escaped slaves. Le Morne is a symbol of slaves and their fight for freedom, their suffering and sacrifices. This all have relevance beyond any geographical location, but especially the counties from where the slaves came from. The memory and oral traditions of the slaves and their fight for freedom are being carried on by the Creole People of Mauritius

Le Morne also has valuable biological attributes. Le Morne is home to many endemic plants native to Mauritius, which includes some of the rarest in the world. Le Morne is also home to the national flower of Mauritius as the only place on the island, the Trochetia Boutoniana. 

In 2008, Le Morne Cultural Landscape was made a World Heritage of UNESCO for the exceptional testimony of maroons and the heroic nature of their resistance and fight for freedom.

In 2009 the international Slave Route Monument was unveiled, standing at the foot of Le Morne. The monument is standing in a garden with native flora and integrated with the restored natural environment of peninsula and the western cliff and the slop of Le Morne as setting. The monument was placed here because of the linear connection between sea, beach and the legendary place called “Valley of Bones” from where the maroons would jump to their dead.

The monument features a central sculpture within a bigger circle leading to other sculptures. The surrounding sculptures symbolize the different countries from where the slaves came from. The sculptures represent Mozambique, Madagascar, India, China, Malaysia, Haiti and Réunion Island.