On February 21, the world celebrated the International Mother Language Day. In Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the Western Indian Ocean, Creole is the native language.
Mainly derived from the French language, the Seychellois Creole language resulted from the descendants of settlers from Europe, traders from Asia and former slaves from Africa. With intermarriage between settlers, the islanders found their own means to communicate and understand one another.
The Seychellois Creole is the most widely spoken on the islands and is one of the three national languages, which also include English and French.
SNA looks at 7 ways that the Creole language is being honoured and promoted in Seychelles.
1. A sculpture of the late Danielle Jorre de St Jorre — a pioneer of the Creole language
The plaque was unveiled at ‘Lenstiti Kreol’ [the Creole Institute] at Au Cap, on the eastern coast of the main Seychelles island of Mahe in October 2015. It coincided with the Creole Festival.
De St Jorre, who passed away in February 1997 at the age of 55, was a teacher by profession and also a linguist. She was part of an association, ‘Bann Zil Kreol’ [Creole islands] formed in 1981 bringing together Creole-speaking islands. It was the association that fought for October 28 to be officially recognised as the International Day of the Creole Language in 1983.
De St Jorre was also the person behind the organisation of the first Creole Week in 1982 and the first Creole Festival three years later, in 1985.
(Joena Meme) Photo License: CC-BY
2. The International Creole Institute
The International Creole Institute was officially opened in December 2014. It replaced the Creole Institute which was in existence at Au Cap, on the eastern side of the main island, Mahe since 1986.
The Institute is responsible for the development of the Seychellois Creole language and culture in all their aspects.
(Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
3. Annual Creole Festival
The month of October every year sets the stage for Festival Kreol [Creole Festival], a week-long celebration of the Seychelles Creole culture.
Viewed as one of the most important events on the Seychelles’ calendar of cultural activities, Festival Kreol offers residents and visitors alike an assortment of colours, sounds, flavours and fragrances of the Seychelles archipelago.
Every year the Seychelles’ population of around 95,000 is joined by fellow participants from other Creole nations in the Indian Ocean and even further away to showcase the Creole heritage through their respective music and dancing, art exhibitions, food fairs and conferences.
The first Creole Festival was held in 1985.
(Joe Laurence) Photo License: CC-BY
4. Miss Creole des Iles International
Initiated by a local modelling agency, Telly’s Modelling Agency, the pageant is reviving the former ‘Miss Kreol’ pageant, which made its debut in 1994 as part of activities to mark the Festival Kreol.
The Miss Creole des Iles International pageant was first organised in 2015. Its main aim is to bring young Creole women from Creole-speaking islands to the event to encourage friendship. Bringing together a celebration of youth, fashion, design, music, beauty, exhibition and overall the promotion of the Creole-speaking islands.
Physical beauty is not a strong criterion on which participants are judged, but their ability to speak Creole and to help to valourise and promote the Creole culture is of greater importance.
(Joena Meme) Photo License: CC-BY
5. Creole language and Culture Research Institute
Under the University of Seychelles a new platform to conduct research on the Creole language — how it came about and its evolution – and on the Creole culture was launched in October 2016.
The Creole language and Culture Research Institute is based at Anse Royale, in the south of Mahe, and is part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Development at the University of Seychelles (UniSey).
(Mervyn Marie) Photo License: CC-BY
6. The first copy of the Creole version of the Constitution
The first copy of the Creole version of the Seychelles Constitution was presented to President Danny Faure as part of the activities to commemorate Constitution Day on June 18 last year.
The current Constitution, which is the supreme law of Seychelles, was adopted on June 18, 1993, after the introduction of a multi-party system. That same year, the people of Seychelles went to the polls to elect a new president and representatives for a National Assembly — the legislative body. That was the beginning of the Third Republic of Seychelles.
(Julia Malbrook) Photo License: CC-BY
7. A Creole-English and French Dictionary
Translating Creole into English or French is now a bit easier with the launch of the first trilingual dictionary in Seychelles in January last year.
The dictionary, the work of Belgium-born Seychellois national Colette Guillieaux, has been published in two volumes.
It is now on sale at the Antigone shop in Seychelles’ capital Victoria at $55.80 (SCR 750) and online at www.amazon.co.uk
(Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY