The Creole people of Seychelles are known as friendly, care-free, exotic people. However not many people actually know much about the culture and ancestry of these wonderful people. In the Seychelles, the word ‘Creole’ refers to those native to the country of whichever ancestry, making them an indeed exotic people.
The majority of the people living in the Seychelles are Creole, and are principally of Malagasy and African origin. However the modern Creole people also include those of mixed African, Malagassy, Indian, Chinese, French and even British origins.
The Seychelles were the last of the Indian Ocean islands to be settled, and the French arrived in and around 1770 with African and Malagasy slaves to work on sugar and coffee plantations. During the first two decades, the colony was faced with various difficulties, but a demographic boom began around the late 1780s when the economy changed from the mere exploitation of the natural resources to profitable agriculture (cotton, coffee, spices).
With the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the Seychelles came under the rule of the British. Although slave trade was at that point already illegal in all British colonies, the colonies authorities found it extremely difficult to enforce this law in the Seychelles and Mauritius, and as such the slave in the Indian Ocean began to flourish. It is estimated that between 1811 and 1827 about 60,000 slaves were exported from Madagascar and East Africa to Mauritius and to the Seychelles.
After the abolition of slavery in 1835 the British Navy captured French ships still continuing in the slave trade and set the slaves "free" in the Seychelles. This led to a considerable further influx of East Africans in the 19th century.
When the French colonists, who mainly came from Mauritius, settled the Seychelles in the 1770s, they and their slaves brought some kind of stabilized Mauritian Creole along with them.
In 1976, the Seychelles became independent, and since 1978 Seychelles Creole has been one of the three official languages along with English and French. However Creole was the native language of about 95% of the population, and in 1982 it was introduced as a language of instruction in primary schools, and is used in television, radio, court, newspaper, etc.
Today Creoles are found throughout the Seychelles, numbering roughly 76,000, which is more than 70% of the entire Seychellois population, and are the dominant group in politics. Seychellois Creoles are proud of their African/Malagasy heritage and have set up a Creole institute in Mahé to help promote and to help others understand their culture.
French is the language of the Roman Catholic Church in the Seychelles Islands and almost all the inhabitants of Seychelles are Christian. More than 90 percent are Roman Catholic. Sunday masses are well attended, although Hinduism and Islam are also prevalent. Religious holidays are celebrated as religious and social events.
The Seychellois Creole cuisine combines a wide variety of cooking styles, including English, French, Chinese, and Indian. Creole cooking is rich, hot, spicy, and delicious! It blends fruit, fish, fresh vegetables, and basic ingredients include pork, chicken, fish, octopus, and shellfish. People also enjoy salads and fruit desserts of mango, papaya, breadfruit, and pineapple. Local delicacies include traditional dishes such as:
· Kari zourit (a creamy octopus curry)
· Tec tec soup (a small white shellfish collected from the beaches and made into a soup usually with pumpkin)
· Poisson sale (salted dried fish)
· Bouillon brede (spinach soup)
· A variety of chutneys (side dishes made by local fruit, fish and vegetables)
· Poisson grillé (grilled fish marinated in garlic, ginger, onions and chillies)
Locally made alcoholic beverages include palm wine (calou). Bacca is a powerful sugarcane liquor drunk on ceremonial occasions. And anyone who has visited the Seychelles will have sampled the very popular local beer, Sey Brew!
Music , Dance, and Art
The Seychellois music genre of Sega is known as Moutia, with African, European, and Asian influences present in Seychellois music, dance, literature, and visual art. African rhythms are apparent in the moutia and séga dances, and the sokoué dance resembles masked African dancing, with Dancers portraying birds, animals, and trees. The contredanse is a French import, with origins in the court of King Louis XIV (1638–1715). Traditionally, Seychellois performed their music on drums, violins, accordions, and the triangle. Nowadays, the acoustic guitar is usually used as well.
Accomplished storytellers and singers pass on Seychellois culture and social customs through fables, songs, and proverbs. Storytelling is at the center of the traditional moutia performance. The moutia began during the days of slavery. Two men told stories about the hard labours of the day. Women then joined in to dance, accompanied by singing and chanting. Modern performances still involve dancing to typical African rhythms. Performers often use satire to entertain and teach people of all ages.Seychelles’ artists exercise their skills across a broad spectrum and their works include everything from the small memorabilia you would expect to find in a tourism-driven economy through to magnificent collector’s items. The products include:
· Stained glass
· Coconut shell
· Husk products
· Works featuring seashells, coral and clothing
· Forms of jewellery-pearl, wood gold and silver
· Products such as bags, baskets, napkin rings, candle holders all made from recycled materials, coconut palms, fibres, bamboo, metal and pottery
· Vanilla and coconut oil/scents
· A tour around the principal islands will allow the visitor to savour the richness of artistic expression on display in many charming galleries and out-of-the-way studios
Creole architecture is an important cultural aspect of Seychelles. The designs of some of the grand old houses are representative of an architecture adapted for comfortable living in the tropics. Steep roofs and many openings to catch the island breezes are characteristics of this. Modern architecture has attempted to assimilate traditional styles, giving more credit to the Creole architecture. There has also been a large French influence in the architecture.
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