Outstanding Universal Value
Retrospective statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the Aapravasi Ghat site
Located on the bay of Trou Fanfaron, in the capital of Port-Louis, the Aapravasi Ghat is the remains of an immigration depot, the site from where modern indentured labour Diaspora emerged. The Depot was built in 1849 to receive indentured labourers from India, Eastern Africa, Madagascar, China and Southeast Asia to work on the island’s sugar estates as part of the ‘Great Experiment’. This experiment was initiated by the British Government, after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, to demonstrate the superiority of ‘free’ over slave labour in its plantation colonies. The success of the ‘Great Experiment’ in Mauritius led to its adoption by other colonial powers from the 1840s, resulting in a world-wide migration of more than two million indentured labourers, of which Mauritius received almost half a million.
The buildings of Aapravasi Ghat are among the earliest explicit manifestations of what would become a global economic system. The Aapravasi Ghat site stands as a major historic testimony of indenture in the 19th century and is the sole surviving example of this unique modern diaspora. It represents not only the development of the modern system of contractual labour, but also the memories, traditions and values that these men, women and children carried with them when they left their countries of origin to work in foreign lands and subsequently bequeathed to their millions of descendants for whom the site holds great symbolic meaning.
Criterion (vi): Aapravasi Ghat, as the first site chosen by the British Government in 1834 for the ‘great experiment’ in the use of indentured, rather than slave labour, is strongly associated with memories of almost half a million indentured labourers moving from India to Mauritius to work on sugar cane plantations or to be transshipped to other parts of the world.
The setting of the property was altered by the construction of a road that cuts across it. At present, less than half of the Immigration Depot area as it existed in 1865, survives. However, original structural key components still stand. These include the remains of the sheds for the housing of the immigrants, kitchens, lavatories, a building used as a hospital block and highly symbolical flight of 14 steps upon which all immigrants had to lay foot before entering the immigration depot. However, the property is vulnerable to the development in the buffer zone, some of which is unregulated.
The property represents the place where indentured immigrants first arrived in Mauritius. Archival and architectural drawings of the complex at the time of its alteration in 1864-1865 give evidence of its purpose as an immigration depot. The surviving buildings reveal significant aspects of the history of the indentured labour system and the functioning of the immigration depot.