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A 100 years ago: Seychelles in the lens of a Japanese photographer

Victoria, Seychelles | February 12, 2023, Sunday @ 12:05 in Entertainment » ARTS & CULTURE | By: Rita Joubert-Lawen Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 7142
A 100 years ago: Seychelles in the lens of a Japanese photographer

A picture of Chwa II Kabalega, the ruler of the Bunyoro Kingdom – now part of Uganda who was exiled to Seychelles for 24 years by the British. (Seychelles News Agency)

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A collection of postcards depicting photographs of many streets around Seychelles' capital of Victoria in the early 20th century were handed over to the Seychelles authorities on Wednesday. 

The collection is the work of a once active Japanese photographer in Seychelles, Samuel Shingow Ohashi, and was once spread all over the world, only to be collected by Sumio Aoki.  It was shown in an exhibition in Ohashi's birthplace Miyazu City to show people his life and achievements in Seychelles.

Also included in the collection are pictures of Chwa II Kabalega, the ruler of the Bunyoro Kingdom – now part of Uganda. He was exiled to Seychelles for 24 years by the British.

Aoki joined a small ceremony at the National Museum for History via zoom video call and took the opportunity to share a few remarks regarding the collection and its history. He explained that among 73 pieces, seven of which were duplicate postcards, he has donated 66 to Seychelles.

“I decided I will donate seven postcards to Miyazu City and the other 66 postcards should be returning to his (Samuel Singow Ohashi) second hometown, Victoria,” he said.

The postcards will be on display at the National Museum for History.

"Ohashi's picture postcards beautifully depict the modern history of the Seychelles, such as the streets of the capital city, ports, government offices, people's activities, giant tortoises and plants unique to the Seychelles," he explained.

The permanent secretary at the Seychelles National Institute for Culture, Heritage and the Arts (SNICHA), Cecile Kalebi, echoed Aoki's sentiments adding that "the postcards will not only provide more information about the history of Seychelles, but it will also enrich our own collection and encourage us to carry more research.

Japanese ambassador to Seyhcelles Kato Eiji presenting one of the postcards to  Kalebi

Aoki said that "some of Ohashi's postcards have also been used in Seychelles' history books and exhibited in the National Museum and other places."

Ohashi, born in Miyazu in Tango, Japan arrived in Seychelles in 1892 after falling ill in Zanzibar in Tanzania. It is believed that he had initially planned to go to Natal, South Africa, via India from Australia.

His trip was cut short at the recommendation of his doctor as Ohashi had fallen ill and was hospitalised for nine months. From his arrival, he settled in the archipelago where he died in 1925 in Victoria at the age of 74.

"In 2025, it will mark exactly a hundred years since his passing, so to mark the occasion we plan to hold an exhibition of his works," revealed Kalebi.

She explained that SNICHA will work again with the Japan International Cooperation Agency in order to hold the event.

Meanwhile, during his address to the guests at the handing over ceremony Aoki also revealed that before developing his love for photography, Ohashi was a soap manufacturer.

In 1912, he ran a photography business in Seychelles, and he had lived in the western Indian Ocean archipelago for so long that when he encountered a fellow countryman "his Japanese was shaky, so the conversation was mixed with English," said Aoki.

He concluded by saying that he hoped that the friendship between the people of Japan and Seychelles will be further deepened and developed through these picture postcards Ohashi left behind.

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Tags: National Museum for History

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