The Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean The societies of the Indian Ocean (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, etc.) came into being at different epochs through the migrations of populations from Africa, Asia and Europe as well as the slave trade from time immemorial.
Date Added: 2004-03-15 10:26 am
Date Modified: 2007-07-30 10:12 am
Cotton fields overseeing
Thus, since before colonization, the system of slavery was present in the islands of the Indian Ocean, particularly in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands where slaves were brought by Swahili traders from the east coast of Africa. The arrival of Europeans in the Indian Ocean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries heralded the start of an active slave trade which led to the Mascarene Islands being populated and exploited. Thus the system of slavery gave rise to a new society that was cut off from its roots. A new culture of an oral type developed throughout the period of slavery, since slaves were forbidden to read and write up to the time of the abolitions. The suppression of slavery did not mean the end of social discrimination because servility persisted in the form of sub-types of servitude such as recruiting, day-labouring and share-cropping.
Nowadays these societies consist of an entanglement of groups of individuals that have crossbred in contact with the cultural models present. A cultural basis has accordingly taken shape over the centuries when the country was more or less voluntarily populated : the racial mix has lent a specific cultural identity to each Indo-Oceanic society, and this continues to evolve through additional influences. At the same time, however, different components of these societies have retained, not to say renewed, certain aspects of the mother cultures.
UNESCO’s research programme to identifiy and catalogue the oral memory in the islands of the south-western Indian Ocean, which is part of the Slave Route project, has brought to the fore the need to safeguard the oral heritage of the islands that have experienced the slave trade, recruiting and slavery.
Thus UNESCO’s programme to trace the oral memory has led to growing interest among the populations concerned with regard to the preservation of that memory. The University of Mauritius, the Nelson Mandela Centre, the Seychelles National Institute of Education, the Abro in Rodrigues and the CNDRS in the Comoros launched recording programmes at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002. These are continuing with collecting and field training. Documents are digitalized and stored in national institutions in the islands and may be accessed by the general public.
The "Esclaves oubliés, l’Utile" project includes a component for underwater archaeological research on a slave ship that sank off Tromelin Island, abandoning its cargo of slaves from Madagascar there.
slave trade, human trafficking, slavery, sugar
Indian Ocean, Africa, Asia, Zanzibar, Mauritius
Press Conference: Forgotten Slaves – L’Utile Shipwreck, 1761 Media Advisory N°2004-26 16 Apr 2004 - The wreck of the slave ship L’Utile near the island of Tromelin in the Indian Ocean in 1761 has inspired a new research and information programme, “Forgotten Slaves”, which will be presented at UNESCO on April 23, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Room IX). More...