"Burial-Excavation" (Mauritius) - Sound
March 12 Independence Day
This sound sketch is a contribution to 59 Days of Independence, a series begun in 2014 by Heather Layton and Brian Bailey to highlight the 59 countries that celebrate independence from Britain. I plan to continue to develop this sound work. To read an essay on my process, published in Chicago Arts Journal, go here.
This sound piece features sekeres and an odurugya, ancient instruments of Ghana, in West Africa, from where I surmised many Mauritian slaves came. The odurugya, I learned, has encoded language within old melodies. The melody you’ll hear is a funeral song.
This encoding—not readily accessible to outsiders—was key to what interests me about Mauritius, where currently the Mauritian Archaelogy and Cultural Heritage team (MACH), headed by Dr. Krish Seetah, is working on excavating the burial sites of slaves and indentured servants. As Mauritius had no indigenous population, the people living there now are all descended mostly from slaves, servants and colonials. Sugar cane was Mauritius' monocrop.
Burial sites invariably contained encoded everyday artifacts, like buttons, whose religious significance was unknown to the colonial rulers. Thus, the oppressed were able to hold fast to their beliefs even to the grave.