Throughout the settled history of the Chagos islands, coconut plantations were the economic base and main source of employment. Chagos islanders had many uses for the different parts of the coconut plant: dried coconut flesh can be pressed to produce coconut oil, and the remaining fibrous copra meal can be fed to animals; coconut shells can be heated and used for ironing; coconut husks can be burned as cooking fuel, and the ashes can be mixed with coconut oil to produce soap; fibrous coir from the husks can be pressed into mattresses and pillows or twisted into rope; and the leafy fronds can be woven into brooms, bags, baskets, and thatched roofs. This exhibit features workshops in Mauritius during which Chagos islanders demonstrated how to twist rope out of coconut fibres and how to weave baskets and make whistles out of coconut fronds.
Coconuts were included in the rations that workers on the coconut planations on Chagos received in part-exchange for their labour, and coconuts were a major part of the islanders' diet. This exhibit shows the steps to dehusk and crack open coconut shells into two equal halves, how to use the rap koko to grate the flesh from halved coconuts, and how to press the flesh with water and strain the milk in preparation for making coconut-based dishes. It features images of Chagos islanders in the UK demonstrating coconut preparation to younger Chagossians.
Coconut is the key ingredient of Chagossian cuisine. Seraz is a rich dish of octopus, fish, fowl, green sea turtle, lentils, vegetables, or fruit stewed in coconut milk. Coconut milk is also used in coconut flatbread (roti dile koko). Grated coconut is used in satini koko (coconut chutney). Coconut milk is used in desserts such as doulpiti (coconut pudding), mouf (coconut banana cake), and matouftwa (coconut cake). Flaked coconut is used in nouga koko (coconut crunch). Chagossian dishes that do not use coconut include bouyon (soup), toufe (sauté), and rannmafann, a rich hot rice drink commonly served with matouftwa. This exhibit showcases Chagossian cuisine, providing cookery lesson films recorded in Mauritius and the UK, and recipe cards in Kreol and English.
Chagos islanders were accustomed to using the medicinal plants growing on the Chagos islands to treat common ailments. Medicinal plants can be prepared for consumption or topical external application. This exhibit features images and videos of Chagos islanders in Mauritius teaching younger Chagossians how to identify and use plants for medicinal purposes.
Chagossian sega music is regulated by a drum beat played on animal skin drums called tambour. Other instruments used in Chagossian music include a metal or glass triang, the one-stringed zez, the resonant bom, the rainmaker maravann, and the interred makalapo. Instrumentalists are accompanied by singers and dancers. This exhibit showcases Chagossian sega music recorded in Mauritius and the UK, featuring images and videos of demonstrations, lessons, and performances of singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments.