Inhabiting Memory

by Sarojini Lewis

Inhabiting Memory, an experimental video film, explores the inter-connected histories of indentured labour migration, slavery and coloniality through a dialogue between three artists, Sarojini Lewis, Sue Kneebone and Vanni Suki, with Indian, British and Madagascan origins, respectively.


The film uses Le Morne, a peninsula in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, as backdrop for the film. Its lush green landscape surrounded by water bodies, mountains and caves makes it a famous tourist destination today. However, the place is also associated with complex histories and memories of slavery and the fight against colonialism for freedom.


Mauritius was an important slave trading centre within the wider Indian Ocean World—and beyond—during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During this period, the mountains and caves of Le Morne served as a refuge for those who escaped slavery. 

After the abolition of slavery in 1835, when a police expedition was dispatched to inform that the formerly enslaved people were now free men and women, it aroused suspicion. As the expedition reached the mountain base, fearing enslavement, some scrambled to the summit and jumped off the cliffs into the ocean. 


Since 1987, the event has been commemorated through the Annual Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery on 1st February, each year. What does it mean to inhabit the remnants of indentured migration and slavery today? 


The film uses archival photographs, documents, maps, personal observations, impressions and micro histories to create an experimental portrait of Le Morne and its other histories.

About the artist

Sarojini Lewis holds a PhD in Visual Studies (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and a Master of Fine Arts (Edinburgh University) with a specialisation in (archival) photography, video art and book arts. She is currently working as a curator, researcher and artist. Her PhD research in visual studies examines the Indian indentured labour in the Caribbean through a contemporary lens. Her projects reveal a preoccupation with history: of the landscape, the city, the environment and their user. Recurring elements in her visual research comprise photographs of objects, people and moments of migration that reveal the forgotten, which function as visual traces and fragments that render narratives leading to new perspectives.


She is on Instagram @sarojini.lewis