La Galerie du Génie: a historical gem to add to your must-see list!

La Galerie du Génie: a historical gem to add to your must-see list!

Did you know that House of Digital Art’s story spans all the way back to the 18th century? Now, before you call me out, I am not saying that our contemporary art gallery was around back in the day… But rather that the building that houses HoDA today has been a longstanding feature of the capital’s urban landscape – one that our team constantly comes back to for inspiration as it strives to share digital art with locals and internationals alike. So, in this piece, I invite you to journey back in time to discover the secrets of an illustrious component of our local heritage – La Galerie du Génie, hoping that its evolving relevance throughout the ages will come to inspire you as much as it inspires us!

Situated on 6 Edith Cavell Street, just 3 minutes away from Port Louis’ brand new Victoria Urban Terminal, La Galerie du Génie exists in bustling, central quarters that act as dynamic inter-connected living spaces to thousands of people every day. Its stone architecture, high convex roofing, and curved windows and doors are reminiscent of the French period, embracing passersby’s in quaint historical remembrance as they sit in the courtyard to unwind for a moment. Though the gallery stands tall and spans over 600-meter squares, it blends naturally into the busy cityscape whilst beautifully serving its purpose as a historical oasis and cultural venue. 

The building’s contemporary purpose does not stray much from its historical one, since it had been designed as a temple of creativity from the very start. Built by the French Royal Government in the 18th century, the gallery was first a facility in which maps and infrastructural blueprints were designed and archived. From its inception, the space had been created as one meant to welcome the minds of those who would shape the face of the Mascarene Islands and influence how Islanders from our little corner of the Indian Ocean would interact with their respective environments. The romanticization of this very idea ended up being at the center of our inaugural exhibition, “What if there was a territory between noon and midnight”, during which artists and visitors got to explore the different ways in which humans perceive and navigate their metaphysical reality through myth, natural science, and cartography. 

One of the historical figures associated with the building is Lislet Geoffroy, a Cartographer, Hydrographer, Botanist, Astronomer, and Military Captain. Born in Reunion to Engineer Jean Baptiste Geoffroy and Guinean Princess Niama in 1755, Lislet Geoffroy first rose to prominence on his native island thanks to his intellect and many talents. His endeavors as one of the early savants of the Mascarenes eventually brought him to Mauritius, where he became the manager of La Galerie du Genie, overseeing the infrastructure-planning projects that would take place within its walls. Today, Geoffroy’s creative essence still lingers throughout the House of Digital Art gallery, inviting our visitors to reflect upon their own connections to art and science.

Our current exhibition, “Toutes les iles sont des arbres” (which translates to “Every island is a tree”), builds off of our first, further encouraging visitors to contemplate their respective relationships with their territories, and in particular, with the living world that surrounds them.

As we continue our exciting venture into the arts during this new season, we cannot wait to welcome you to our beautiful historical gallery (that you now know a little bit more about)! So join us for a cultural experience that reunites art, science, and history!