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CREOLITY DAY : A TIME FOR LOOKING AHEAD BUT ALSO WITHIN

CREOLITY DAY : A TIME FOR LOOKING AHEAD BUT ALSO WITHIN

On 28th October 1981, scientists having Creole as their mother tongue gathered in St Lucia's Vieux Port to work on the theme : Creole continuity and creativity in the Creole world. They came out with the setting up of a movement under the name : Bannzil Kreyol and published its founding texts. Ever since, the 28th October has been celebrated annually in Louisiana, Canada, Caribbean countries, Australia, Seychelles and Reunion Island. Indeed, it was high time for Mauritius to celebrate this event.

The word Creole comes from the Latin word "creare" which means to create. The Brazilian people first coined the expression in the early XVIth century. The Spanish adopted the word "Criollo" to denote their own who were born in the New World and the French later copied this word from the Spanish. The descendants of the White aristocracy who settled in New Orleans also adopted the word "Creole". But at the same time in other parts of the world, the word Creole had barely racist connotation, and was not anthropocentric. It was applied across the board, to human as well as to plants and animals, e.g la banane créole, le cochon créole or la musique créole.

But the definition changed as blacks were coming in. The colonization of the Caribbean and American worlds from 1740 onwards coupled with the African colonization somehow came to denote the term Creole with successive definitions. It is interesting to note that for Pr Raphael Confiant (IOCP, Symposium, 1999) linguistic insecurity in the colonies developed into a local Creole language. According to him, Creole language was not born during the plantation economy but well before ; the natives had to communicate and give names to various objects and food. White colonists men were having so many liaisons with black women because of lack of French women that some prostitutes were sent to the colonies. He further elaborated that in 1789 with the French Revolution mulattos seized power in the colonies, and rejected Creole language and culture. After the abolition of slavery even the blacks rejected Creole language, as they thought that only the French language would set them free and obtain a position. However, after the abolition of slavery, the indentured labourers coming from India used Creole for integration and the language and culture continued to flourish without interruption.

{{Social models}}

Recent theorization of creolity describes the "Creole Society" in general as a society born out of the bringing together of different peoples and cultures by force, as was the case in the era of Slavery. In spite of the fact that the different elements of this society already had their own established histories and culture, a creole society has always been a new one, which does not always reflect already established social models. The theoretical construct of Creolity is found in the Creole movement led by brilliant French West Indies intellectuals (amongst whom Pr. Raphael Confiant, Jean Bernabé and Patrick Chamoiseau).
Mauritian Creolity has become a subject of increasing interest for recent academic research in cultural and religious anthropology (Romaine, 2003 ; Palmyre-Florigny, 2004 ; Veder, 2004). Drawing from these researches, it can be stated that creolity can help the Creole community to reconnect with their specific heritage that historically rode roughshod over their culture. But most of all, it can become the foundation for a new cultural and national identity in the process of nation-building.
According to Dr Palmyre-Florigny (Marye Pike, 2002), " la construction identitaire oscille entre une exo-définition (définition de soi par les autres) et une auto-définition (définition de soi par soi). Lorsque l'exo-définition est dominante et quelle est extrêmement péjorative, elle dévalorise sa victime et la place dans une situation d'impuissance […] Un renversement s'opère depuis quelques décennies dans le monde créole. Il a renforcé son endo-définition et s'applique à rejeter les préjugés dont il est la cible. Il tente, de plus en plus, d'inventer de nouvelles manières de se définir lui-même et de s'affirmer. Finalités et stratégies identitaires évoluent ".

The post-modern discourse on selfhood distinguishes "voluntary identity" from "imposed identity". The concept of voluntary identity rejects ascribed and imposed identity, by putting the premium upon individual autonomy (Preston, 1997) as opposed to the encumbrance of community demand for "a sense of identity as the reflection of an inner essence". It repudiates the concept of frozen identity and instead favours an assumption of selfhood as an infinite process of identity construction. In fact, the socio-historical evolution of the Creole community of Mauritius from an anthropological perspective demonstrates that it has always refused an "imposed identity".

{{Difficult inheritance}}

In September 2003, the Diocese of Port-Louis had the immense pleasure of welcoming Philippe Chanson (a theologian and researcher in cultural and religious anthropology for the Carribean). The concept of Creolity is also pervading Christian theology of Creole societies. Négritude underpins the interplay of Christianity and creolity. It encompasses the Negro cultural and spiritual values of Aimé Césaire. Creolity can no longer be ignored by a Creole Christianity that is much too far removed from its own culture. Creolity and theology must, however, come to terms with a difficult inheritance - that of the past colonial slavery to which the Church was an accessory. The Creolity movement, by intercepting and reinterpreting the whole of the Christian theological vocabulary and its Bible-based concepts, has overcome this obstacle in a truly remarkable way. Theological thought must now, however, take note of this and seek a dialogue. Given that their aims are ultimately identical this could only be fruitful and would enable a genuine Creole theology to become a reality. Indubitably, there will be a new profiling of the Kreol community in the future with the breakthrough of creolity.

The Festival Kreol propels and brings in impetus.

It is a time for celebrating, to look ahead but also within.

{{Jimmy Harmon}}

{{References}}

{Brathwaite, Edward. The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica 1770-1820. Oxford : Camden Press, 1971.

Chanson, Philippe. Esclavage, Négritude et Créolité. Les lames de fond de l'assomption créole. CPE. Jul. 1996.

Preston, Peter W. Political/Cultural Identity : Citizens and Nation in a Global Era. London : SAGE Publications, 1997.

Websites : International Organisation of Creole People (IOCP).

Marye Pike. Quand l'Evangile rencontre la culture créole. ICIM. Le Thabor. 2002}

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