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Mission Ruins of Venn's Town

Date of Submission: 01/02/2013
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Tourism and Culture
State, Province or Region:
Sans Soucis, Port Glaud
Coordinates: Y: 9485286.99 X: 327427.41
Ref.: 5796
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The Mission Ruins of Venn's Town is situated on Mahé Island more precisely in the South-West of the Morne Seychellois National Park, at an altitude of 450 m. It is served by the public road Victoria-Sans Souci-Port Glaud which traverses the central mountain chain running from east to west. The site lies 6 km from the town and it can be reached by vehicle in 20 minutes.

The general topography consists of a ridge with a flat summit, which is bordered by steep slopes above the road. The flat zone, is the only one which is equipped covering an area of 0, 75 ha. Its longest dimension is 200 meters from the entrance signpost until the viewing lodge.

This zone is occupied by Venn's Town ruins and by the viewing lodge which are clearly demarcated by the natural change in the topography and by the dense forest vegetation which are found on the steep slopes.

The ruins consist mainly of traces of foundations of the 5 buildings which cover a total area of 540 square meters. Certain of the wall elevators are still in place together with the window recess. The buildings were apparently built in lime. The most surprising foundations are those that some people call “the laundry” or “dormitory” for the simple reason that there are 19 cavities of very small dimensions where some equipped with a metallic pipe for emptying the water.

It is one of the most historically and culturally meaningful site in Seychelles. Its importance lies not only in the fact that its ruins bear testimony to an important phase in Seychelles history but its location itself, the landscape within which it exists, decidedly well-chosen by the missionaries to set up Venn's Town, is a heritage worth noting. It forms part of the Morne Seychellois national park and its location at the top of Sans Souci, on Morne Seychellois (the highest mountain on Mahé which is the main island of Seychelles) makes that it offers one of the most panoramic view of the coastal areas, lush/dense virgin forests, home to numerous endemic plants and small animals.

Venn's Town is a place of unique historical, cultural, aesthetic and ecological value. It is a mystical place nested amongst the dense and unique vegetations of the Morne Seychellois National Park.

Venn's Town exudes a kind of mysticthat can be felt immediately as one step on the site. This probably due to its rich history in excluded location.

It was set up as an industrious school by the Church Missionary society, a philanthropic group in 1876-1889 to accommodate children of liberated slaves. The site is located on top of a mountain in a national park, far from the main town area, a place unique in biodiversity and history.

Originally Venn's Town covered an area of 50 acres of which a large percentage was used for vanilla and cocoa cultivation. The main buildings consisted of two dormitories measuring 100 feet by 25 feet, one for the boys and one for the girls. A number of houses, washrooms, kitchens, huts for labourers, a workshop and storeroom and a mission cottage for the schoolmaster and his family made up the settlement.

Since the last batch of liberated Africans landed in Seychelles in 1875, the Institution eventually took in children born of African parents who worked as labourers on various plantations.

The site has a diversity of endemic plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Apart from a diversity of native and exotic plants, the Morne Seychellois National Park is also home to a diversity of animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. It contains the smallest frog (Sooglosus species) which is related to an ancestral species which was recently discovered in the mountains of India. There are also a number of endemic birds such as the Seychelles scoops owl (Otus insultis), an endemic found only in Seychelles. The species is so rare that it has been listed as critically endangered. Hence the biodiversity of the area is of paramount importance.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Mission Ruins (Venn's Town Ruins) is situated on Mahe Island in the South West of the Morne Seychellois national park at an altitude of 450m. The setting up of Venn's Town settlement in 1875 can be described as an interesting period in the history of Seychelles and very symbolic. It was a new era in the life of people who has been captured and oppressed. The large numbers of freed Africans had a great impact on Seychelles in the formation of the Creole Seychellois identity and it gave birth to subsequent civilization. It was an emblem of hope for humanity in a time of great injustices. The cultural site Venn's Town/ Mission Ruins comprises of ruins and a cemetery which was an extension to the original settlement where the liberated slave's children was buried. Nowadays the place is more popularly used as a tourism attraction and used by the local community for prayers and meditation.

The Venn's Town/Mission Ruins is part of the Port Glaud Community and was declared a National Monument in 1984. Since then it remain a property of the National Monument Board and was being taken care of by the Ministry of Environment, as the site is part of the National Park. In 2007 the Government appointed a newly formed Seychelles Heritage Foundation to manage four sites, and Venn's Town was part of the four. And since last year Seychelles Heritage Foundation is working in a joint venture with Mission Limited to run the site. The history of the site was an interesting period in the history of Seychelles. The large numbers of freed Africans had a great impact on the Seychelles both socially and economically. It was :

-An important stop along the slave route of the Indian Ocean and of Eastern Africa.

-An important element in the makeup of the African diasporas

-An emblem of hope for humanity in a time of great injustices

-An example of part of the process of habitation of previously uninhabited island country

-The formation of the Creole Seychellois identity and it gave birth to subsequent civilization

Criteria (IV): It serves as a testimony to the slavery period, more precisely the aftermath of the abolition of slavery, where freed men were given work and their children educated. It provided the people who were oppressed a chance to be human again and thus serves as a precursor of the humanitarian movement. It serves as reference to the history of slavery in Seychelles, giving an insight as to how the slaves were treated especially the group of freed slave children brought together to learn to be their own masters. This group of children will eventually become ancestors of a significant core of the present population. The few walls and buildings represent a period in history when people were confined at a certain time. It is worthy to note that the liberated slaves played vital roles in the foundation of our cultural traditions ranging from our unique version of the Creole language, our music, our dance, our traditional medicines, economic activities. 

Criteria (VI): Venn's Town Mission Ruins directly associated with the slavery period, especially after the abolition of slave trade whereby the illegal trade was still persistent in the Indian Ocean. The Seychelles became one of the main locations where slaves freed from British ships were disembarked and compelled to start a new life. Venn's Town/ Mission Ruin are believed to be an emblem of hope for humanity in a time of great injustice. The site symbolizes the beginning of formal education and Christianity for the liberated slave children of Seychelles.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Since the declaration of the site as a National Monument in 1984 there has been no intervention at the Venn's Town/ Mission Ruins. Traces of foundations of the five buildings which cover a total area of 540 square meters and some walls are in place and intact.

The authenticity of the archaeological site is intact. There is a need for consolidating of the existing structures to ensure that they are not eroded by natural or human processes. The site was an important stop along the slave route in the 18th and 19th century in the Indian Ocean and Eastern Africa and also an important element in the makeup of the African Diaspora. There are various documentations and archives on the location and there are various researches being carried out at the moment.

The site is located in a remote area far from recent human settlement and development. With time and with the passing through of visitors the ruins became exposed. To date no action has been taken to restore or excavate the ruins and tombs.

The integrity of the site is secure and has not been eroded because of its location far from any recent human development. The government's policy of safeguarding the rich bio diversity of Seychelles has also ensured the integrity of the place. The cemetery and the Ruins of the Venn's Town settlement are outstanding evidence of the abolition of Slavery and its consequences in the Indian Ocean region.

Comparison with other similar properties

Venn's Town is a site that demonstrates something in human life that is regrettable, but took place. It represents an event in the whole world in terms of slavery. These are the symbols of freedom.  As a site associated with slavery and abolition of slavery it a can be compared to Le Morne in Mauritius and other slaves sites such as Goree Island in Senegal, Free Town and Bunce Island in Sierra Leone.

Compared to the sites that have been mention above, Venn's Town is probably the only site in the world that served freed slave children and Unlike Goree Island which is still a living settlement, with private homes that continue to be occupied, Venn's Town is inhabited. Venn's Town plays a significant role in the education of the children of slaves in the period 1875 in Seychelles. The children were educated in vocational skills such as carpentry and handicrafts. In fact this gave birth to the introduction of formal education in Seychelles. The Venn's Town was the only institution in Seychelles that provided education to slave's children at that time.