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Tony Mathiot: Seychelles' national treasure, prominent historian and writer is laid to rest

Victoria, Seychelles | February 5, 2024, Monday @ 15:15 in National » OBITUARIES | By: Sharon Ernesta | Views: 3148
Tony Mathiot: Seychelles' national treasure, prominent historian and writer is laid to rest

As a freelance writer, Mathiot's work has been published in various magazines. (Seychelles Nation)

(Seychelles News Agency) - One day after what would have been his 62nd birthday, Seychellois historian Tony Mathiot was laid to rest on Monday.

His funeral service was held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in the capital city of Victoria, and he was then buried at the Beau Vallon cemetery in the north of the main island of Mahe.

Considered a walking encyclopaedia and custodian of the island nation's history, Mathiot died unexpectedly on Wednesday, January 24. His untimely demise, days after that of anthropologist Norbert Solomon, has left a void with many wondering who will replace Mathiot, not only as a historian and researcher but as the man who was a living archive, carrying the island nation's history in his extraordinary mind.

As a close collaborator of the writer of this article on many features, Mathiot shared information spontaneously and could tell exactly what had happened in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – on precise dates 100, 150 and 200 years ago. Only days before his death the author of this article was planning her articles for the month, and made a note to call Mathiot to know important milestones the island would be celebrating in 2024.

Mathiot had a special skill and gift to keep so much data in his head. A few weeks ago, at the funeral of his colleague and friend Solomon, Mathiot made his 15-minute testimony, speaking about his friend's childhood, studies, personal life, as well as career as an anthropologist and his research, all without a piece of paper to remind him.

Mathiot was also great in the art of transmission of knowledge. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY 

He had this remarkable skill, which stemmed from his love of books and reading. SNA spoke to Pat – Mathiot's older brother – a seasoned journalist, naturalist and writer – who said that his younger brother's love for books started at a very young age, even before Tony could even read. "We grew up in a house where there were many books belonging to my mother, a teacher, and her siblings. Some of the books are still in the house today," said Pat.

Mathiot, who studied at the Seychelles College, decided to take further studies at the Hospitality School, but after two weeks decided that this was not for him and quit. 

It was early in the 1980s that the late Marcel Rosalie, who was working with the culture and heritage ministry started to give Mathiot documents from translations from Creole to English, that was the beginning of a friendship that would last until Rosalie's passing. And with time Mathiot became interested in the history of the islands. Rosalie was formerly the director-general for the culture department, a writer and poet.

Gabriel Essack, Mathiot's colleague from the Seychelles National Institute for Culture, Heritage and the Arts (SNICHA), told SNA that "Mathiot was a national scholar, a national treasure" and described his death as "a great loss," adding that more should be done to give recognition to people like Mathiot and the work they do.

Essack said that Mathiot, a self-taught historian, was a national encyclopedia of the history of Seychelles. During his over 35 years of involvement with the then culture department, he assisted in the production of a vast number of articles about the historical heritage of Seychelles.

"Tony's departure will be felt nationally as he was a historian of a different calibre, as well as a creative writer and thinker, with the special skill of expressing himself and historical facts in a very clear manner. He was accessible to all levels of readerships," said Essack.

As a freelance writer, Mathiot's work has been published in various magazines and has contributed to several articles and publications.

According to Esack, Mathiot – who was never employed on a full-time basis at the National Archives – was such a common sight at the Archives and the National Museums, that he was eventually given his own desk and office corner where he could carry out his research work, adding that Mathiot was very generous with his in-depth knowledge of the history of Seychelles.

Mathiot was also great in the art of transmission of knowledge. It is through this that he will live on through a lot of people who knew him, listened to or read what he wrote.

Mathiot's brother Pat shared with SNA that another passion of the late historian was nature and he was an avid hiker, taking one or several hikes per month to different sites. Pat said the monthly hikes were a family activity, with even their aging mother participating.

"Our mother was well into her seventies and she was still hiking," explained Pat. The Mare Aux Cochon trail on the main island of Mahe was one of his favourite trails, and no doubt many others especially those on heritage sites or of significant importance to the islands' history 

Another passion of Mathiot was the Creole cuisine, something he loved and was good at making. According to his brother, Tony would always be in charge of Sunday lunch and would prepare many delicious dishes including one of his favourite grilled red snapper. For the many family hikes, Mathiot took care of the packed lunches, which would include omelette sandwiches.

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Tags: Creole cuisine, Mare Aux Cochon trail, Cathedral of Immaculate Conception

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