‘Celebrating 250 years of Seychelles – on the occasion of the 250 years anniversary of the first settlement in Seychelles’.
The year 2020 has a pleasant ring to it, and it just had to be the year Seychelles celebrates its milestone of 250 years since first settlement.
In the millennia of a country’s story, two hundred and fifty years might not seem much. Nonetheless, this year, Seychellois of all persuasions can take pride in the fact that regardless of this short, but significant amount of time, a homeland with its own culture and identity has been shaped from what were unrelated ethnicities with diverse and often incompatible interests.
So unquestionably it is opportune that we celebrate how we have pleasantly coexisted with each other thus far, compared to other parts of the world.
The celebration of the anniversary of the first settlement in Seychelles is a huge milestone in Seychelles history, and the month of August will become a very important month in the calendar of events for Seychelles as it celebrates the birth of Seychelles and commemorates the anniversary of 250 years since settlement.
To ensure the occasion is given its prominence, since August 2019, the President announced the set-up of a national preparatory committee to spearhead the planning and organisation of the events. The committee consists of the following members: Jeannine Chung Faye, Emanuel D’Offay, Sybille Cardon, Oliver Bastienne, Tony Mathiot, David Andre, Cindy Vidot and Alvin Laurence with Sherin Francis as the chairperson.
The committee has stated that the event be celebrated the whole year through, starting with the countdown 250 days prior to the event. With that said, a PR communications and digital marketing team is ready to take us all on a journey right through 2020, to make certain the event receives the right amount of public exposure right throughout its implementation to its final orchestration. The aim here is that the celebrations stay forever in people’s minds.
First things first: with occasions like this, a unique image almost always has to be created. For this special happening, out of the 3 graphic designers who submitted their proposals, STB’s very own were the ones awarded for having created the design closest to the committee’s vision. Of course, so as to not to have a potential conflict of interest, the chairperson from STB was not part of the judging panel for the logo, which will be used to brand the celebration all the way through.
The pre-launch took place last year in August, marking the date and acting as a projection to the chief celebration. It was on this occasion that the first branded commemorative items were distributed and there will be many other unique keepsakes of the like to look out for.
Apart from the artisanal craftsmen and artists producing pieces, the committee is open to anybody who wishes to produce items. Designs and logos will be supplied by the committee.
Additionally, both the Central Bank of Seychelles and the Seychelles Postal office will be producing silver and gold commemorative coins and stamps respectively for the occasion and possibly we may even see a celebration beer courtesy of Seychelles Breweries.
An important component will be an episodic account of Seychelles history since the first settlement, with supporting images and documents, tackled by a panel of authors, namely: Glynn Burridge, Tony Mathiot, William McAteer, Bernard George, Penda Choppy, Philippe Michaud, Bernard Shamlaye, Marie France Watson and Richard Touboul. The commemorative book is well underway, headed by STB with Glynn Burridge appointed as chief editor. It will be a valuable document for scholars and lovers of history and one of the most comprehensive histories ever undertaken in Seychelles.
Since the official 250 days’ countdown started in December 2019, to keep up the momentum of anticipation and continuous engagement, there have been several historical debates, documentary series and one-minute spots being aired on social media, TV and radio. This is the vehicle to hear from people of all works of life, picked to share their tales or recollections and to express what this celebration signifies to them and what their hopes are for the next 250 years.
On a different level, besides commemorative items, several iconic landmarks are planned.
As Ste Anne is the place where the first settlement took place, the Seychelles heritage foundation, in collaboration with Club Med, is coordinating to erect an iconic Museum project, similar to that on Silhouette, to mark this Sestercentennial anniversary.
For Victoria itself, a commemorative replica of the frigate Thelemaque or a similar symbolic icon in Victoria is to be installed as a monument along with a first settlers’ plaque. Also in order for this celebration is a life-size sculptured replica of a typical traditional village of the past to bridge the gap in our history. This is intended to be a valuable historical and educational tool for both Seychellois and visitors.
Let us not fail to remember the second largest island of Seychelles, Praslin, where the committee is working with Praslin’s Community to erect a Youth Fisherman Statue in honour of all the people lost at sea. The sculpture is to represent a young boy fishing on a rock, an activity carried out by the elder generation and a practice hardly exercised by the younger generation today in this world of technology. This is to be a milestone achievement for the people of Praslin and Seychelles in general.
When it comes to all the events, it is hoped that they will be similarly launched in parallel on Praslin and La Digue. Scheduled, are activities by the various districts fortnightly from this month of January onwards up until August 2020. These activities are to showcase what makes Seychelles unique by creating an opportunity to celebrate a point of the history of the district, region or island in question. This has been planned to be undertaken by inaugurating historic milestones, organising activities ranging from exhibitions to unveiling of plaques and restoring cultural sites, places, products and trails.
A calendar of events will be drawn out to be distributed through various channels once all activities have been identified.
The history fair is the one project to be led by the department of culture in collaboration with the ministry of education. The idea is to have schools across Mahé, Praslin and La Digue work on exposés to be displayed in one National Fair in August 2020. All entries will be made into a book as tokens for those interested to purchase.
Interestingly, an art exposition titled “Desin mon lavi” has been suggested as part of the buildup. Desin mon lavi involves a young artist’s meeting with an elderly person to paint a picture on canvas of one of his favourite, most remarkable stories.
Equally, the activities planned have Government organisations involved to showcase their sector via a walk through in the 250 years of Seychelles, particularly when it comes down to the evolution of land transport, health and maritime voyage.
On the whole, the launching event will be a promising one with VVIPS, dignitaries, guests of honour, sponsors and partners and the general public, in the heart of Victoria at Freedom Square, believed to have been formed by the landslide of 1862. Freedom Square, formerly known as Gordon Square, is symbolic as a location as it reflects the spirit of the Seychellois solidarity and nationhood, especially during the prolonged struggle for Independence between 1964 and 1976.
The main day event will be of two parts: the official ceremony and the cultural show, highlighting the key milestones of the journey through Seychelles. This will be followed by the unveiling of symbolic pieces and will finish with a float parade which will show the evolution of 250 years since settlement.
With all reflected on, our Seychellois tale speaks of adaptation and increasing tolerance; of differences of origin, beliefs and welfares being collapsed to create mutual ground as we have all come to understand that we are literally in the same boat!
When all is said and done, truthfully, we didn’t come this far to get just this far and so definitely this is a time to celebrate and carry on weaving the strands of our different roots with great care so as to consolidate the progress we have made as a nation as we continue to move forward in harmony.