How Porlwi Festival lights up Mauritius

Story highlights

  • The Porlwi Festival is in its third year
  • The founders want to revive the city through art and culture
  • The festival attracts close to 400,000 visitors over a five-day period

(CNN)In late November last year, Mauritius' capital, Port Louis, burst into life.

The city, once a grand colonial trading hub, was taken over for five days by lights, music and dance.
    In 2015, Astrid Delais and her partner Guillaume Jauffret set up the first festival with the intention of revitalizing Port Louis. They wanted to reignite residents' pride in their city, making it a cultural center once more.
    "When we looked at our capital Port Louis we saw it had a huge amount of beauty and charm," Delais told CNN. "But at 5pm the city dies. People go, streets are empty, its dark. There's a potential for life, to stay alive, to attract young people."
    So far, their mission seems to be working. Now in its third year, the festival attracts close to 400,000 visitors, covering 30,000 square meters of streets in the heart of the capital. It showcases art, music, performance and cuisine reflecting the nation's cultural diversity.

    Mauritius' melting pot

    An island nation lights up
    Inside Africa Porlwi by Light Festival in Port Louis A_00000000

      JUST WATCHED

      An island nation lights up

    MUST WATCH

    An island nation lights up 07:41
    About two-thirds of the island's population is of Indo-Pakistani origin, one-quarter is Creole (mixed French and African descent), and there are also small numbers of Chinese and Franco-Mauritian descent. This vibrant mixture stems from its history as a Dutch, French and British colony, and its sugar plantations that brought indentured laborers from southern Asia.
    The Porlwi Festival brings together these layers of migration. "There's French Mauritians, Indo Mauritians, there's Creole people, there's Chinese Mauritians, there's also international students like us finally having an opportunity to all come together in this space," said art student, Gitahi Kariuki.
    Krishna Luchoomun, a Mauritian artist, portrays this myriad of identities through his work. For the latest festival he dressed figures in clothing belonging to the island's different cultures and religions. Then, to reflect the festival's 2017 theme of "nature," he replaced the figures' heads with plants, flowers, coral and stones.
    "I'm trying to connect our natural environment together with the people to show how we're all connected in some way and how we are all connected with nature," he said.

    Porlwi by Nature

    Mauritius celebrates in song and dance
    Inside Africa Mauritius Porlwi by Light Festival B_00022128

      JUST WATCHED

      Mauritius celebrates in song and dance

    MUST WATCH

    Mauritius celebrates in song and dance 07:29
    Each year the festival has a central theme: 2015 was "light" and 2016 "people." The only criteria, said Delais, is that it's "important to the revival of the city."
    This year's choice was partly inspired by their own market research, in which 67% of Mauritians said that it was a priority to have more green space in Port Louis.
    "Doing nature wasn't a question," she says. "To attract young people to come live in the city, to attract new projects and regeneration, I think it's important to bring breathing space, to bring more green spaces, so that families, children have space to run around, play in parks."
    The art installations help to communicate this. One project, involving school children, created origami structures with seeds inside, that could be picked off the city's trees and planted by visitors. Another, by artist Shesley Crustna and university students, used a light show to simulate a starry sky.
    "I want to bring back the stars," Crustna says, commenting on how they can rarely be seen in metropolitan cities because of light pollution.
    For Delais, the greatest impact the festival could have is reviving the residents' respect for their city and the island: "For the festival goer to go home happy and proud to be Mauritian, and having understood the fragility of nature and his own role in protecting nature."
    A light festival with a legacy:
    Inside Africa Porlwi by Light Festival Mauritius C_00001215

      JUST WATCHED

      A light festival with a legacy:

    MUST WATCH

    A light festival with a legacy: 07:26