Managing heritage in a contested space : the case of Le Morne Cultural Landscape in Mauritius

09 Nov 2015

The Le Morne Brabant Peninsula in south-western Mauritius is known for the imposing mountain of Le Morne that dominates the natural landscape. The peninsula is a contested place. During the time of slavery, the place was settled by colonisers ? recently, their progeny are selling of land as real estate for high-end leisure resorts. The Le Morne Cultural Landscape has recently been inscribed as a World Heritage site - at the core of the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV) lies the celebration of resistance against slavery and the significant role that the mountain and its surrounding natural landscape has played in that resistance. To Creole slave descendants it is a sacred site that strongly relates to their very origins and identity and that supports an alternate interpretation of the past that is considered pivotal to their ?sense of being?. To them, but increasingly also to a wider and diverse Mauritian and international audience, the mountain is a living fortress that symbolises the quest for freedom over oppression at all costs. The current paper introduces the competing cultural constructs of place and asks whether the management system of the cultural landscape, as well as the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, are adequate to ensure that equity and balance can be achieved in the contested landscape, and for the local carriers of the belief system of Le Morne to be adequately heard and included.