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Exhibition honours lost way of life

Snapshots of performances and workshops feature in a vibrant exhibition that aims to preserve and celebrate a displaced community’s cultural heritage.

Opening at Crawley Museum in Sussex on 5 May, the display showcases images of people form the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean teaching younger generations distinctive aspects of their heritage.

These include music classes, cookery workshops, and identifying medicinal plants.

Launch event

Mayor of Crawley, Councillor Brian Quinn, will open the exhibition.

The launch will feature a poetry recital by Saradha Soobrayen, a Chagossian cuisine tasting session, and a performance by the Chagos Tambour Junior UK musical group.

Displaced community

The Chagos islanders were forcibly uprooted from their home in Chagos Archipelago – a group of islands south of the Maldives – between 1965 and 1973, and sent to Mauritius and Seychelles.

Chagos islanders and most of their second-generation descendants were awarded UK citizenship under the British Overseas Territories Act in 2002, since when many have migraed to the UK.

Dr Laura Jeffery, a social anthropologist at the University, has worked with the displaced Chagossian community for more than 15 years.

She believes it is important to conserve the islands’ culture to enable the group to retain a connection with their homeland.

International project

Dr Jeffery is the Director Cultural Heritage Across Generations (CHAGOS) – a collaboration between University of Edinburgh researchers, Chagos Refugees Group, and Crawley Museum. It is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

As part of the project, workshops in Mauritius and Crawley have encouraged Chagossians to share their traditional way of life.

The exhibition was first displayed in Mauritius earlier this year, where it was launched by Cassam Uteem, former President of the Republic of Mauritius.

CHAGOS has also contributed to a Mauritian Government dossier encouraging UNESCO to recognise the musical heritage of the people of Chagos as World Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The outcome will be decided in 2019.

We are delighted to launch our exhibition in Crawley. Cultural heritage is important for marginalised communities to sustain collective identity, and our project aims to help displaced islanders to protect and share their cultural heritage practices.
Dr Laura Jeffery University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science

Related links

CHAGOS online

School of Social and Political Science

Crawley Museum