Highlights of former President Mancham’s life on display in exhibition |24 June 2023
Some time back the Mancham family made a donation of various materials – books, passports, photos, paintings – that belonged to former President James Mancham and now the public can view them in an exhibition at the National Museum of History in Victoria.
The exhibition will run until September of this year.
Sir James Mancham was Seychelles’ first President who founded and served as the leader of the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) until 1995. Sir James worked to promote tourism in Seychelles and he was instrumental in the construction of Seychelles airport.
During the opening of the exhibition, Alexander Mancham, son of the late Sir James, shared that his father was always passionate talking about Seychelles and he was a charismatic individual. “He had strong views on different things and he loved to travel to discover the world. Nothing gave him greater joy than telling people about the potential of Seychelles and the beauty of Seychelles. My father was very driven and he loved work. Everything in the exhibition is special and the most treasured one is his desk as it was his engine. The other important documents are his passports and it is a unique opportunity for people who did not know my father to come discover his work.”
The secretary general of Seychelles National Institute of Culture, Heritage & the Arts, David Andre, spoke about the life of the former President.
Born in Seychelles on August 11, 1939, Sir James Richard Marie Mancham was a Seychellois politician who founded the Seychelles Democratic Party and was the first President of Seychelles from 1976 to 1977.
“Affectionately called Jimmy or Ton Jim by many, Sir James was a world statesman, a philosopher, a writer and a poet whose commitment and tireless contribution to the promotion of world peace, progress and reconciliation found resonance on the international scene and in Seychelles.”
Founder of the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), Mr Mancham studied at the Seychelles College before his father sent him to London to study law at Wilson College before being called to the Bar (Middle Temple, London) in 1961. After additional studies in economics at the University of Paris, he returned to Seychelles and served as Barrister and Attorney-at-Law before the Supreme Court of Seychelles (1963 to 1967).
It was during that period, when he was first establishing himself as a member of the legal profession in the country that he began to involve himself in national politics. He made a steady rise in Seychelles politics, under British rule – as a legislator, party leader, Chief Minister, Prime Minister and then as first President of Seychelles on June 29, 1976.
As Chief Minister of the colony, Mr Mancham promoted tourism to the Seychelles and arranged for the building of the airport that was to make the Seychelles accessible to the rest of the world. Tourism increased and the economy developed.
After the coup in 1977 Sir James remained in London where he lived in exile for 15 years. In his lifetime, Mr Mancham was the recipient of a number of awards among those the prestigious International Jurists Award for world peace at the International Conference of Jurists 2010, the Gusi Peace Prize in 2011, the URI-Africa Peace Award (2016), the GEP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. In fact he was the first recipient of that award.
“The man has lived an intrepid life as he was a political leader, businessman, author and proud Seychellois. He followed a busy schedule of conferences, lectures and writing. He was a pillar of the contemporary history of Seychelles and a central figure of our return to multi-party democracy. He was a true apostle of peace, national unity and reconciliation, and his achievements, vision and endeavours in that sense will remain his enduring legacy,” Mr Andre.
During the opening of the exhibition, Georgette Larue recited one of Sir James’ poems entitled ‘My People’.
Beryl Ondiek, director of National Museums, is urging the public to come visit the exhibition and discover the life of one of the sons of Seychelles.
Photos: Joena Meme