Dauban historical plantation house on Silhouette


16-April-2018

Creole culture activities day marks reopening

 

The newly restored iconic plantation house originally built by the French Dauban family in the 1860s, reopened on Saturday during a fun Creole culture activities day.

The Grann Kaz, as it is better known, has undergone some six months’ restoration works during which its authentic Creole cuisine restaurant was closed for three months.

Together with the reopening of the Grann Kaz was also that of a new history museum set up in the living room of the old house. An initiative of Richard Touboul, cultural attaché of the department of culture, the museum showcases a number of rare artefacts and documents retracing the history of Seychelles and of course Silhouette (see main story in French).

It took around a year to put together and this with close collaboration of the National History Museum.

The work on the house itself was carried out by the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa situated on the island in collaboration with the Islands Development Company (IDC), the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Dauban family.

Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Mitcy Larue officially cut the ribbon in the presence of the minister responsible for tourism Maurice Loustau-Lalanne and the general manager of Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa Andre Borg.

Minister Larue described the reopening of the Grann Kaz and its museum as a great opportunity to experience a moment in time in the history of Silhouette captured in photos, maps and written stories on display in the iconic Silhouette Grann Kaz.

“Whenever any museum, big or small, is created and made accessible to the people, it is testimony to a part of our history, culture and heritage that has been preserved for us and the future generations to appreciate and learn of our past,” remarked Minister Larue.

She noted that the Silhouette museum is a concrete example of how the soul of the island has been preserved in a historical house while allowing visitors to know the history and appreciate the development of the island and it is also testimony how the old can cohabitate in peaceful harmony with the new.

“The museum will not only be an attraction for visitors, foreign and local alike, but also a learning tool for the people of Seychelles especially the youth and school children,” Minister Larue pointed out.

She went on to commend the hard work, effort and commitment that has gone into the setting up of the museum and restoration of the Grann Kaz and expressed the hope that more people in the private sector would invest in similar initiatives.

She thanked everyone who have contributed to realise the project.

Expressing his joy to partake in the celebrations to reopen the Grann Kaz, Minister Loustau-Lalanne described it as a “wonderful building”, “home to the Dauban family” and “a grand symbol of our country’s rich history”.

Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa general manager Andre Borg said: “I am happy that we have managed to repair the damages to the house caused by the extreme climate on the island by retaining its original walls and floors.”

He went on to add that the kitchen on the ground floor has also been restored to continue providing the Grann Kaz restaurant with authentic Creole cuisine.

Mr Borg said the Grann Kaz and its restaurant and now museum is open to the Seychellois public and the management is currently working on a concept and package to make it more accessible to the locals to come and enjoy for instance Sunday lunches and visit the museum and the island as a whole.

Thomas Dauban, son of the late Henri Dauban, the last of the French descendant to live in the plantation house, his wife Shirley, daughter Sarah and son Jean Luc were also there to witness the event.

An emotional Mr Dauban junior told the press that the Grann Kaz has always evoked great memories and has always been very special for him and his family.

“To witness and be part of the event marking its reopening makes me very proud and happy,” Mr Dauban said.

Other than the newly opened history museum on the ground floor, on the upper floor, which used to be the sleeping quarters, the remaining Dauban family has put up an exhibition showcasing its history through a collection of photographs, short write-ups and artefacts.

“Today is really very special for me and I am overwhelmed by a strong emotion which I can find no words to describe,” Mr Dauban said.

He added that he is very happy with the restoration work which has preserved and kept the original and traditional architectural wooden structure while repairing the decayed beams, roof and other parts of the house but incorporating a more modern touch.

“In general when looking at it the house is the same as it was before and I am very happy that they have preserved its originality. Its wooden floors made of teak wood are still the same as when the house was originally built and this is really great,” Mr Dauban said.

Mr Dauban and his elder sister, who is currently abroad, are the two children of the late Henri Dauban. He said they were raised mostly on Mahé, more precisely at Mont Fleuri where the family had another house but their stay at the Grann Kaz on Silhouette was frequent and he cherishes those times.

He says he still visits the island at least every three months.

“Each time I come to Silhouette it feels like I am coming back home, the sense of belonging is so great and I enjoy the peace and tranquillity and this is the place I come to when I want to get away and relieve some stress,” pointed out Mr Dauban who has already come back to Silhouette four or five times this year.

During his visit Mr Dauban also interacted with the native inhabitants of the island who have known and worked for his father. Modestie Magnan, now in her 70s and was the domestic worker in the plantation house, is always there to greet him.

On Saturday to mark the reopening of Grann Kaz Mrs Magnan was all smiles posing with Mr Dauban and his family and proudly recounted her life on Silhouette and different anecdotes about the times she spent working with the Dauban famiy.

Among activities to mark the historic occasion guests were able to partake in a buffet lunch of mix Creole and other cuisines.

Creole music and dancing of the traditional moutia and sega was also on the programme while guests and visitors to the island watched live and even tried their hands at making hats with tender coconut leaves with the help of Allain Brown while Jean Baptiste Arissol demonstrated his skills at making fish trap out of bamboo.

As for local artists Nigel Henri, Danny Sopha and Philip Volcère they displayed their paintings.

At the end of the day an auction sale of a few paintings by Mr Henri and Mr Volcère raised over R23,000 which will be handed over to the School for the Exceptional Child.

Heidi Francourt, the head teacher of the school and who was present at the event, welcomed the initiative and while expressing her gratitude for the donation she said the children with special needs really need a lot to make their learning and their environment better.

She added that any contribution big or small are always very much welcomed.

She said the school is yet to decide on the project that will be funded by the money raised.

 

 

 

 

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