EXHIBITION: Mauritius on display in Toronto

Peggy Lampotang, a Mauritius native and professional photographer, has launched a photo exhibition that introduces the luscious landscapes and diversity of cultures of Mauritius to her fellow Canadians in Toronto.
"Mauritius: Off the Beaten Path," opened Oct. 5 at the Alliance Française in Toronto and runs through the end of October. The photographs capture ordinary Mauritians engaging in everyday activities: children playing under a banyan tree, a postman delivering mail, for example, all against the backdrop of mountains, ocean and tropical vegetation.
"I'm hoping that visitors will see an aspect of Mauritius that will touch them, the one that is not in tourist brochures, the one that shows how its working class people live, with their pains, their struggles, their jobs and that overall pervasive warmth and spontaneity," Lampotang told Week-End. "I'm hoping that they find much inspiration from the simplicity of these people's lives."
The idea for the exhibition came nearly two years ago while Lampotang was visiting Mauritius and presented a photo show at the Photography Museum in Port Louis that highlighted the changing seasons and landscapes of Canada.
"A few people asked me whether I would also have a show on Mauritius in Canada. Since the idea was already at the back of my mind, I said definitely yes," she said. "I had already taken some neat photos on a few trips with Mauritian friends who took me further inside the coastal villages, like Trou d'Eau Douce, and Mahebourg. The pride and desire of Mauritians to have their country showcased in Toronto was a good incentive to make it happen sooner."
Back in Toronto, she focused on Alliance Française's photo gallery as the best place for an exhibition as their mandate is to promote French culture, and Mauritius having been a French colony, fits in there.
"I approached them with photos I thought represented best the Mauritius that touches me, mostly its people at work, and the director loved them. He thought it would be perfect for October, International Creole Month, which Alliance Française celebrates every year," she said.
Lampotang, also an accomplished artist and writer, traveled through coastal villages and the island's interior to get her best shots. "Even if it's a small island, Mauritius has so many different areas that surprise me with their wild beauty. Kind friends, among them photographers such as Jameel Peerally, Tristan Breville and Annie Cadinouche, have taken me to villages I've never explored before," she said.
"I thought it would be great to have an exhibition to share those moments with fellow Canadians who often ask me about the island where I was born."
Further information about the exhibition and Lampotang's photography can be found on her website at: www.peglam.blogspot.com

Searching for Bernardin de Saint-Pierre in Paris
On a recent trip to Paris, I made my first visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery in north Paris, one of the most famous and most-visited burial places in the world. I was attracted by the many great names of French literature, politics and the arts that are buried there: La Fontaine, Molière, Proust, Edith Piaf, to name a few.
A map of the cemetery available at the cemetery's office gives a rough approximation of where to find specific gravesites. Beware: it's a huge cemetery, spanning more than 100 acres with serpentine, tree-lined walkways.
As I scanned the long list so that I could plot out my strategy for the visit, one particular name among the hundreds jumped out: Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, author of Paul et Virginie. I had no idea that Saint Pierre, who wrote his famous novel in 1787, and died in Paris in 1814, was buried there.
Despite the prompts on a map, finding Saint Pierre's grave among a maze of aged tombstones, many dating to the 18th century, was a huge challenge. Inscriptions on many graves were impossible to read. Others were covered by moss or blackened by age. I almost gave up the search until I spotted what would be the last gravestone I would explore, on the off chance that it could be him. And there it was - almost ineligible: Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, 25 Janvier 1814
It was well worth the effort.


What a nice way to promote Mauritius overseas through what I believe is the heart of our island: its people!