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In love with PORLWI

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Back in their island birthplace in 2012 to shape a more contemporary culture in the streets of the capital, Astrid Dalais and Guillaume Jauffret position their annual series of “Porlwi” festivals as a celebration of lively talents in the Indian Ocean.

Astrid Dalais and Guillaume Jauffret admit that they “love Port Louis”, and because of this love, Porlwi (as it’s written in Creole) will now be breathing in the fresh air of nature. This thirty-something couple, who found festivals for contemporary cultures, and whose lives, for real and on stage, are closely intertwined, are in the midst of the frantic preparations for their next event Porlwi by Nature.

A third episode – after Porlwi by People and Porlwi by Light – which they intended as a festive occasion for hundreds of thousands of Mauritian spectators at last reconnected with their birthplace, ready to take root in the city’s heritage and bring it to life in performances that will change it forever. Receptive to all the talents gleaned here and there, artists, thinkers, cooks or acrobats, the festival will stage the creative passions and impulses in the heart of Mauritius.

Astrid Dalais and Guillaume Jauffret in front of the wall of an old factory opposite their Move for Art studio in Beau Plan Creative Park, Pamplemousses

Throughout the course of life
For Astrid, the idea is “to initiate a dialogue, to make the heart of the Mauritians beat in time to the rhythm of today’s culture and to reinvent the capital of an island that has artists of amazing quality, by helping them along.” Guillaume adds, “We went out to get them, to sow the seeds in people’s minds, ready to germinate.” For this celebration “of the essential features of life on our island” they will seek out nursery gardeners as easily as visual artists, and headhunt anthropologists as readily as landscape architects.

At the end of an avenue of ancient mango trees, in the offices of Porlwi and Move for Art, this brilliant and charming duo start their performance. Smiling red lips dancing around the carefully chosen words that her mischievous looking companion receives and sends back. He calls her his poukni (she who lights fire in the local Indian dialect), she called herself the “prompter of ideas” at one stage in a previous career in communication.
Astrid wandered along the paths of local and international top-of-the-range tourism for 11 years, while Guillaume, who left the island at the age of 14, danced, leaping from Rite of Spring with Béjart to Romeo and Juliet and Mozart, l’opéra rock. A pirouette in Spain and he was back in Paris to found Move for Art, offering artistic and often original events to big companies. After working at the Park Hyatt Vendôme, she occasionally collaborated with Guillaume on projects for Vivendi, Omega or Total. Both found themselves working in Paris. Their two years of success landed them numerous other prestigious commissions.

FOR ASTRID, THE IDEA IS “TO INITIATE A DIALOGUE, TO MAKE THE HEART OF THE MAURITIANS BEAT…”

To enliven Porlwi
But Mauritius was calling… First Guillaume to manage the celebrations for the 45th anniversary of the island’s independence and then, life companions, with a little baby boy on the way, they came back to their island in 2012, “to try to open it up to the world with its myriad possibilities for fantasy and magic. The young generation was ready to share… but lacked the structure.” They therefore undertook to enliven their “Porlwi” thanks to a few coppers – 90 % of which came from private contributions – and a lot of eclecticism and audacity in their choices of local and international talents. On the fringe of the festival, they set off to reach out to Chinese shopkeepers to unleash
some colourful street art messages on 23 walls lining some of the more dreary streets of Port Louis. They are also organising a “Porlwi Lab” with thought-provoking symposiums by clever minds on sensitive subjects. No longer fearful of addressing economic truths, they are triggering some strong reactions from their sponsors and associates. Their mission for the next 10 years is to target their ambitious artistic direction, “to deliberately change the urban landscape with proposals that wake up and shake up,” and continue to proclaim their rallying cry to all and sundry: “Explore our past the better to understand our future.”

by Jean-Pascal Billaud
Photographs Claude Weber