The richness of the creole culture is due to the fact that the population is made up of people coming from the 4 corners of the globe, europeans, chinese, indians, liberated slaves, political exiles, arab and iranian merchants. These multi ethnic influences are felt in architecture, music, dance, art and food.
The french influence and the colonial heritage can be seen in the design of the old plantation houses. These old wooden traditional houses belonging to plantation owners all had imposing steps leading to large verandahs. They are testimony to the islands’ colonial past.
Unfortunately, due to economic and climatic reasons these “gran kaz” have not stood the test of time. In 1980, a law was passed to help in the restoration of some of the best examples of these historically important colonial houses for example at the Village Artisanal on Mahe, and Yellow House on La Digue.There are also smaller traditional wooden houses, and these are often painted in vibrant national colours. Unfortunately but inevitably though, all of these houses are disappearing and are being replaced by modern brick houses. Traditionally, the roofs of the these old houses were made from palm leaves and the kitchen was nearly always set apart from the main house so that the kitchen smells would not invade the house.
Slowly, the practicalities of daily life mean that corrugated iron sheets have replaced the traditional roof and kitchens are now an integral part of the houses and air conditioning is preferred to natural ventilation.
However, the modern architecture has adapted to climatic conditions of the country with steep roofs for fast rain run off and large verandas to maximise time spent outside.
MUSIC AND DANCE
Music and dance have an important part to play in the cultural life of the Seychelles and are always present in local festivities. The origins of this goes back to the beginning of the 18th century when the slaves from the plantations used to congregate around a fire and sing and dance to the sound of different locally made instruments; maravane- a sort of gourde filled with dried seeds, ravane: a drum made from goats skin or the skin of rays, triangles... The music played today is with traditional rhythms which come from african, malgache and european cultures, and is accompanied by drums, tam-tams and stringed instruments. Foreign influences have made that the violin and the guitar are now an integral part of the music scene.
The most popular traditional dances are the “sega”, where all the movement is in the swaying of the hips, and the “moutia”, an erotic style of dancing dating back to slavery times. The “kamtole” is another more classic dance and music style which has a strong european influence, and is usually accompanied by banjos, accordions, violins, and is reminiscent of a traditional scottish
There are several dance and singing groups, traditional as well as modern music bands. The choirs mostly sing church or traditional music.
ART AND CRAFTS
There is a wide range of artisans in Seychelles all more colorful than the other. They create hats, batiks, pottery, boat models, wickerworks, jewels and much more all put together with locally sourced material such as coral, shells, naturalfibers, bamboo or even local wood.
PAINTING AND SCULPTURE
Paintings often represent local landscapes, so rich on the islands, but also the relaxed live style and normal everyday scenes such as fishermen and they catch, the Victoria market, so colorful, evening dances by the bond fire. The medium used is very diverse ranging from oil to watercolor, collages, metals, wood, fabrics , pastels and charcoal.
Sculptors use mainly local wood, Takamaka, Bois Noir, Gayak, Bois de Rose to name a few but also stones,bronze, resins and cardboard. Since 1988 there is an art venue , La Biennale open to artists of of the Indian Ocean region.
It mixes the french spoken in the 18th century with idiomatic expressions spoken by those involved in the slave trade. The Seychelles, together with Haiti, are the only 2 countries where creole is an official language.
The oldest piece of creole literature is a translation the 49 fables of de La Fontaine by Rodolphine Young (1860-1932) who was a teacher in the Seychelles. Her work, published only in 1983, is an extraordinary document giving an insight into the creole spoken at that time. Moliere, the Little Prince of Saint-Exupéry and even some Shakespeare have also been translated
into creole. Antoine Abel et Elva Pool have been the first to experiment with poetry in creole, while Leu Mancienne was the first to publish a novel in creole entitled “Fler Fletri” in 1985. More novels by other authors followed, “Mon tann en Leokri” again by Antoine Abel or by Eva de June Vel. A creole - french dictionary was compiled by Danielle de St Jorre and Guy Lionnet, a local linguist.
It was published in 1983.
The 3 main tenses Past, Present and Futur all feature in the creole language but there is no use for the article as sentences are constructed so that subtle differences assign gender and whether words are singular or plural. Creole is written phonetically and the letters C, Q, X and U do not feature.