A 'treasure trove' waiting to be discovered: Seychelles artist and antique collector turns old, unused building into museum and souvenir gallery
The old unused building turned into a museum, gallery and souvenir shop at Baie Lazare. (Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Baie Lazare, located on the South Western Coast of the main Seychelles island of Mahé is proving to be a district with a rich history and culture, which its inhabitants are willing to preserve and protect, as an attraction for visitors and for the benefit of the future generation.
The ‘Lazare Souvenir Museum Gallery’ is a recently opened little ‘treasure trove’ hidden in the heart of the district. While many may not know about its existence yet, the place is one which allows locals and tourists alike to really go back in time.
At first glance, one could easily mistake the old corrugated and wooden building that houses the museum for a historic house or an old typical Indian shop, if not for the ‘open’ sign strategically placed on an antiquated bicycle.
|The open sign inspired by a museum, which Larue visited during a trip to the United Kingdom. (Salifa Magnan. Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Upon entering the museum; that’s completely another story, as one is left in awe of the crowded place with its array of old objects including its collection of old musical instruments, stamps, utensils, documents, furniture tools and photographs, among others.
One really has to take time to enjoy and discover the history or story behind each and every item found there.
This is an initiative brought to life by a Seychellois artist, Joseph Larue, who has been collecting such old objects for the past fifteen years.
|A few artifacts found in the museum from top to bottom: An old watering can, photographs and aged stamps. (Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
In an interview with SNA, Larue explained how he got the idea to turn the old building that had been abandoned for many years and was being used for negative activities, into something positive and productive.
“I always wanted to showcase my collection [of old items]. Looking at many of those items, I am reminded of my childhood and the silly jokes related to them. Another reason behind this is that I would also like to preserve these antiques for the future generations to enjoy,” said Larue who is himself a resident of Baie Lazare.
“The oldest items in the museum are some land documents dating back to the early 19th century and early 20th century. They were found in the most unusual way; by a dumpster in Bel Ombre, a district in the north of Mahé, during one Clean up the World campaign [an annual cleaning activity during the month of September].”
“One man's trash is another man's treasure,” Larue told SNA.
|Larue holding a document from the mortgage office of seychelles dating back to 18 November 1908 (Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Apart from the antique items and old souvenirs visitors to the museum and souvenir gallery can also find hanging along the walls, paintings done by various artists waiting for their turn to be bought and taken home by a passionate visitor.
Aside from colourful canvas, there is a large variety of crafted items on sale, made by Larue himself, who has been doing craft works since 1992, as well as the work of other artists.
|Some of the works on sale made by different artists (Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Commenting on his choice to establish the museum-cum souvenir shop so far away from the Seychelles capital of Victoria, Larue explained that he felt it was better to decentralize adding that he targets tourists who choose to stay at the different hotels found in Baie Lazare, as well as artists and the general public in general who live in the South Western part of Mahe.
“This museum and gallery will not only benefit local artists residing in Baie Lazare or in the neighbouring districts, but children and adults alike, helping them to learn about our [Seychelles] history and culture.”
Although it has been welcoming visitors since January this year, the Lazare Souvenir Museum Gallery was officially opened by the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St Ange, on August 8.
In an article published in daily newspaper Seychelles Nation, St Ange described the initiative as one which could further boost the country’s tourism industry; the main pillar of the island nation’s economy.
For Larue, all does not stop there as he is hoping to extend the place to have proper compartments so as to better organize the museum, gallery and souvenir shop, which are all currently packed in the same room.
To keep the museum interesting and to grow his collection, the passionate collector of old items is also calling on people to consider passing on any artefacts they are thinking of throwing away because they are considered old and useless.
Larue is also counting on the support of fellow artists in the district to make the place which does not ask for any entrance fee a ‘must see’ among the visitors to the Seychelles shores.
“Seeing the satisfaction on their faces makes me satisfied though a small contribution is always welcomed.”
Located some 45 minutes to one hour away from the Indian Ocean archipelago’s capital of Victoria, Baie Lazare was originally thought to be the actual landing place of French Captain Lazare Picault in 1742, although historians have accessed documents that suggest he actually landed a little bit further down in the neighbouring district of Anse Boileau.
|SNA presents a collection of photos taken at the ‘Lazare Souvenir Museum Gallery’ by Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency. Photo License: CC-BY|