Creole Heritage Past, Present & Future

Accela Marketing
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October 27, 2022
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minute read

The Creation Of Creole

When you land in Saint Lucia, Dominica, Haiti, or even visit certain rural communities in Trinidad you will find the common greeting of “Sa Ka Fête!” (How’s It Going?”) between friends and family.  This hybrid, post-colonial language is called French Creole. It is a mixture of African, European, and Native American languages. French Creole also permeates the cultures of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mauritius and the Seychelles, Louisiana and Cayenne (French Guyana).

Creole was originally created by enslaved Africans who spoke different indigenous West African languages but had to communicate with one another on plantations in the Caribbean region. These slaves would use bits of their own language as well as bits from other European tongues that they heard from colonizers to create a new tongue that was uniquely theirs.

One simple and delicious tidbit of Creole etymology (the study of the evolution of language) can be found in Creole word for avocado which is “zaboca”. The French would have called this fruit, native to the indigenous people of South America, "Les Avocados". The enslaved Africans, with an emphasis on oral memory would have focused on how the word sounds when verbalized. It sounds like "layzavocah", which over time will become zaboca.

Creole was the original language of “kaiso”, the musical artform invented in Trinidad and Tobago which would spread to the entire Caribbean region. The earliest tambu bamboo bands, chantwels and calypsonians sung all kaiso in Creole. However the British attempts at full Anglicanization were eventually succesful in eradicating Creole as the lingua franca in Trinidad, but Creole still permeates the local parlance in words like fete, j’overt and  bazodee.

Today, the tradition of Creole Kaiso remains strong in Saint Lucia, with modern, uptempo iterations by the Dennery Segment; and in Dominica with its ‘Bouyon” music.

Preserving Creole Heritage

While other British-ruled island succumbed to Anglicanization, Saint Lucia and Dominica remained strong and are today the Caribbean mecca of French Creole language and heritiage. Seeing the value in that heritage, one man, a young RC Priest, Patrick Anthony allied with a group of proud Saint Lucians inspired by the global Black Consciouness Movement to form the Folk Research Centre (FRC) to preserve that Creole Heritage. The goal was to establish a new-ingenous Caribbean identity in the wake of the momentum towards Indpedence from Great Britain.

“However the real impact of the Folk Research on Development in Saint Lucia goes far beyond what may be superficially judged as archivism. Apart from the legitimation of traditional culture, the promotion of local cultural values and the affirmation of resilience against cultural invasion and penetration, there are development programmes that face the development issue head on”

The Msgr. Patrick Anthony Folk Research Centre (FRC), Saint Lucia

One of the most crucial roles of the FRC is outreach into communities. It is not a coincidence that in a British-ruled territory, with British class, education and industrialized economic systems imposed, the more rural and economically depressed the community, the more likely Creole is the lingua franca. The FRC faciliates economic projects to address poverty and the exclusion of these vulnerable communtiies from enterprise and social mobility.

The Mouvman Kwéyòl Sent Lisi is one of the FRC’s greatest initiatives which encompasses a network of community leaders, artsits, media professionals and academics all working together to promote the development and mainstreaming of Saint Lucian Kwéyòl.

Accela Marketing has made the Creole Language a key approach to all our Public Relations and Public Educaiton work, in order to ensure no community is left out of being informed and empowered by health, technology, economic messages. From ATM instructions and Number Portability Guides in Creole, we ensure no community is left behind.

We also find clever ways to mainstream Creole in corporate life such as the rebranding of the Saint Lucia Civil Service Credit Union to the Creole name, Jannou Credit Union. Or the use of madras as a brand visual mechanism.

The Future Of Creole Culture

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation has proclaimed Creole Month to be celebrated every year in October and culminates on the last Sunday with a celebration of Jounen Kwéyòl (Creole Day). This year's event will take place in the communities of Castries and Choiseul.

The celebrations are typically a mix of traditional and modern elements. There are carnival-style masquerades, traditional food and drinks, music performances and readings by authors who write in Creole. The goal of this event is to promote awareness about Saint Lucian culture through arts and education as well as to preserve the language for future generations.

Creole Heritiage is more than just a language, it is a lifestyle. It is a sense of humor. It is a communal way of living. It is low-tech, low-carbon footprint innovations like the coal pot and banana leaves and old presses. 21st Century terms like up-cycling are things rural, French Creole speaking people in Saint Lucia have been doing for ages. It can be a rich source of new ideas for a new age if it is properly valued and preserved. So what is in store for Creole Culture? More films and music. More literature and animation. More learning from our ancestors on how to survive and thrive and build solid communities. Bon Jounen Kwéyòl tout moun!

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