Mahebourg... where time stood still

Story by Annie Cadinouche and Gilbert Pernet

Timbuktu or Mahebourg, these are names of places whose simple intonations make us reel back into dreams of our childhood.

            While the magical, foreign-sounding African syllables of the first stir in our mind images of camels treading slowly across desert dunes, heavily laden with treasures, Mahebourg on the other hand, brings back memories of a more recent past.  This southeastern coastal town of Mauritius, steeped in history, and designed by French architects, is a place where time has stood still.  Its harbour, one of the largest on the island, impresses with its shimmering water, screens of green foliage, and an imposing lion-shaped mountain that faces the rising sun.  It is easy to imagine the fierce battle fought in this port in 1810 when the French won against the English.

            Annie Cadinouche and Gilbert Pernet have a special way of warming our hearts with their photographic renderings of this village. These twenty-eight photos of a distant place and time glide before our eyes to the tempo of Saint Saëns’ musical ballad, and capture our imagination.  Annie and Gilbert’s talents bring us close to the contented life of the villagers of Mahebourg: their houses, their cafés, their walkways lined with palm trees, as well as their gardens.  These photos are so evocative that we, simple mortals, want to transcend time and space to be there at dawn and dusk with the people of Mahebourg, so we can share their joys, their destitution, so we can savour every whispered childhood secret, every new departure with these people of the sea as they set off to conquer the turquoise ocean.  Yes, we long to be there, to have a taste of the eternal voyage!


Translated by Peggy Lampotang

Philip Lim


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