Fascinating heritage of Praslin Island explored after century-old lime kiln unearthed
The importance of lime kilns in the development of the Seychelles has been recognised by the unveiling of a plaque during 2016 Heritage Week.
Tourism and heritage representatives gathered on the island of Praslin to mark the discovery of a historic lime kiln, believed to be more than 100 years old, at La Pointe St Sauveur, on the island’s heritage trail.
The monument represents the crucial role that lime kilns have played in the Seychelles’ construction industry from the early 20th century.
The official unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the important history of lime kilns on Praslin Island is the culmination of a year-long labour of love by heritage chiefs and a local family.
Members of the Seychelles Heritage Foundation, government tourism and culture ministers and heritage volunteers gathered at a ceremony at La Pointe St Sauveur, Praslin, as part of the 2016 Heritage Week celebrations taking place across the islands.
The event celebrated the importance of the lime kiln, or “four laso”, in the Seychelles’ construction industry for more than a century.
A link with history
The monument, the latest attraction on the Praslin heritage trail, represents an important discovery on the island, in the shape of a lime kiln that is believed to date back more than a century.
Little is known about the historic find at present, but further research is continuing to complete this vital link to the development of the Seychelles from a group of unspoiled islands in the Indian Ocean into the thriving visitor destination they have become today.
It’s thanks to heritage enthusiasts and local residents the Confait family that lime kilns are taking their rightful place in Praslin’s rich heritage.
The story began during 2015 Heritage Week, when the Seychelles Heritage Foundation joined forces with the Confait family, local residents of Praslin, to help preserve and promote the traditional lime kilns.
The historic kiln lies on their land and they have been happy to assist, so that both tourists and local people can visit and learn about its history.
Members of the family have spent the past 12 months cleaning and maintaining the site to transform it into a visitor attraction, while the Seychelles Heritage Foundation and partners have compiled and produced an information board to highlight its significance.
Ron Esther, representing the Ministry of Land Use and Housing, has designed a bridge that enables easy access to the kiln, so visitors can examine it closely. In addition, Joel Confait is to erect a small kiosk next to the kiln for visitors, while a restaurant is opening nearby.
The Seychelles Heritage Foundation is confident that tourists will now be able to appreciate this magnificent, historic piece of craftsmanship. With the site clearly visible from the main road, they hope it will also attract visitors who may not have been aware of its existence. The new information board is written in all three national languages.
Both the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Seychelles Heritage Foundation have praised the involvement of Mr Confait in the preservation bid. As a local Praslinois, his involvement has been particularly gratifying, as tourism and heritage chiefs hope that residents will reap the rewards of any tourism boosts for the island.
Importance of lime kilns
Lime kilns have played a significant role in the Seychelles’ construction industry from 1900 onwards. In the 20th century, the lime kilns of Creole were used to bake coral, turning it into powder that was mixed with red earth and often gravel to produce mortar.
Many private homes and heritage assets still standing today were constructed from lime, including a water reservoir, schools, churches and cemeteries.
The dining hall of Praslin secondary school, the Grand Anse Praslin National Library and St Matthew’s Church are among the lime-built structures that are still used today.
The lime kiln on the heritage route at La Pointe St Sauveur was built by the late Arthur Savy, who even exported lime to the main island of Mahé at one time, according to oral accounts. It was still in regular use until the late 1960s.
The heritage event was attended by a number of government ministers, including Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St Ange, the special advisor to the Minister for Cultural Affairs Patrick Nanty and culture principal secretary Benjamine Rose.
The invited guests included representatives of the Heritage Clubs of Mahé, the Seychelles Heritage Foundation, Mason’s Travel and local Praslinois residents.
Mr St Ange told those present that the protection of the Seychelles’ history was only a part of the tourism and culture department’s responsibility. “We also need to get discerning visitors to see such heritage sites,” he explained, to ensure visitors took away fond memories of the islands.
“We have more than just sun, sea and sand,” he added. “When visitors see our history, they will appreciate our culture, will be better able to understand our way of life and will appreciate us as a holiday destination.”
He also appealed to local tour operators to include the heritage sites as part of their itinerary and to inform visitors of their existence to spur them into taking a look.
Miera Savy, chief executive officer of Seychelles Heritage Foundation, urged Praslin’s business community to back the initiative and make good use of the sites.
She said that in doing so, business people were not only promoting the Seychelles’ heritage, but were also ensuring that any financial contributions derived from the lime kiln monument and other historical sites would benefit their use as educational centres for local heritage clubs.
As the promotion of the Seychelles Islands as a high-end tourist destination gathers momentum, heritage events and monuments, such as the historic lime kiln discovery, will serve to further enhance the region’s reputation as a centre for culture that will attract discerning visitors from across the world.