Decolonising Dodoland: from Colonial Anaesthesia to Autopoiesis in Creative Practices on Mainland Mauritius

Pyndiah, Gitanjali. 2019. Decolonising Dodoland: from Colonial Anaesthesia to Autopoiesis in Creative Practices on Mainland Mauritius. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This research analyses modes of challenging the authority of colonial aesthetics and historiography in Mauritius through cultural forms such as the visual arts, music and the Creole language. The project was triggered by the conclusion, reached by the national Truth and Justice Commission (published in 2011), that Mauritians know very little about their history due to cultural amnesia. My principal research question is: to what extent is this explanation valid? I argue that the lack of historical knowledge on the part of Mauritians is in fact due to a ‘colonial anaesthesia’: a process of inducing a cultural forgetfulness regarding colonial violence. Drawing from the ‘decolonial option’, expounded by Walter Mignolo, I locate ‘coloniality’ (the residues of colonial structures of representation) in the Mauritian institutional and cultural landscape. Employing ethnography and a discursive analysis, I read a prevailing colonial historiography in the geography of the capital city of Port Louis, the settler narratives of the National Museum of Natural History and the representations of the dodo (a bird brought to extinction on mainland Mauritius in the seventeenth century). Following this diagnosis, the thesis turns towards the propositional and builds from Mignolo’s ‘decolonial aesthetics’. I analyse how the work of Mauritian artists Firoz Ghanty and Nirmal Hurry questions and subverts colonial representations and offers an alternative historiography. I subsequently draw from Sylvia Wynter’s conception of ‘autopoiesis’ as a form of self-creation, in this case through the sega: a polymorphous performative art form embodied in dance, music and song in the Creole mother tongue. Here I use Julian Henriques’ methodology of ‘thinking through sound’ to provide a sonic genealogy of Creole and to ‘listen’ attentively to the possibilities offered by sega. Autopoiesis is here understood as a form of creative decolonisation: a building of knowledges that allows for new possibilities of sociality under regimes of oppression.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Mauritius, Creole, decolonial, colonial amnesia, dodo, contemporary arts, sega, seggae, sonic landscape, autopoiesis

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


30 November 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Dec 2019 10:48

Last Modified:

30 Nov 2022 02:26


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