What does Kweyol re­ally mean to the youth?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Clau­dia Eliebox

Cre­ole Her­itage Month is much eas­ier to ap­pre­ci­ate while at­tend­ing school. I re­mem­ber the teach­ers at the Gros Islet In­fant and Pri­mary Schools en­cour­aged us to wear our Na­tional Wear on Jounen Kweyol. We were taught and re­minded of its de­scrip­tion al­ways. They also directed fes­tiv­i­ties ev­ery year, re­li­giously and each grade was guided to con­trib­ute some­thing mean­ing­ful to the Cre­ole con­certs. We made acous­tic in­stru­ments from re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, pans, beans and string, mod­eled madras out­fits, and per­formed folk songs and dances. Then, I spent most of my sec­ondary school life at Cas­tries Com­pre­hen­sive Sec­ondary School, where teach­ers would be col­lect­ing in­gre­di­ents through­out the month of Oc­to­ber. On the morn­ing of Jounen Kweyol, these same teach­ers ar­rived at 4 a.m. to be­gin pre­par­ing cre­ole break­fast. By the time stu­dents ar­rived fires were al­ready crack­ling for the lunch menu. I re­mem­ber rid­ing horses in my madras (which got me in trou­ble), watch­ing boys chase the pig meant to be slaugh­tered, eat­ing so much, I didn’t have space for ac­cras at home, and burst­ing bam­boo in the rock gar­den. Our cel­e­bra­tions were so ex­cit­ing that the se­cu­rity had to be chas­ing out­siders ev­ery year. Jounen Kweyol at Sir Arthur Lewis Com­mu­nity Col­lege was in­signif­i­cant to me; I think that’s when I re­al­ized how dif­fer­ent it was when we didn’t have teach­ers to make all the ef­fort.

I was ush­ered out of my ig­no­rance, when I also re­al­ized Jounen Kweyol is the last Sun­day in Oc­to­ber. The Fri­day of Cre­ole week­end does not mat­ter af­ter age six­teen. Only the skimpy out­fits made from madras to tour the is­land on Cre­ole Sun­day to eat. Well, this is what par­ents no­tice the young gen­er­a­tion ap­pre­ci­ates most about Cre­ole Her­itage Month. The older gen­er­a­tion re­ally com­plains that our cul­ture is dy­ing too.

Cre­ole month has al­ways been a lit­tle spe­cial to me, for num­ber of rea­sons. I have al­ways had a keen in­ter­est in cul­ture, his­tory and art forms. Not just that of my coun­try, but oth­ers as well. De­spite my per­sonal in­ter­est, there are still many things I do not know about my own her­itage, far less, oth­ers in my gen­er­a­tion who have lit­tle to no in­ter­est. Maybe our cul­ture is ac­tu­ally dy­ing. But here’s some food for thought: The con­cept of cul­ture con­tin­u­ously evolves with set­ting, and Pe­tite Ste. Lu­cie is in­evitably evolv­ing. Over time our cul­tural tra­di­tions will gain more ad­di­tions. So, while I whole-heart­edly agree that we should cel­e­brate and keep the flame alive in our her­itage: folk dance, solo bands, and def­i­nitely our Kweyol lan­guage, our cul­ture is not YET dy­ing. It’s just that, maybe by the time I have chil­dren “brr pap” and “split in d mid­dle” will be folk songs too.

Also, the younger gen­er­a­tion is not as com­pletely cul­tur­ally obliv­i­ous as some may think. Dis­in­ter­ested maybe, but not com­pletely. Our past two Na­tional Car­ni­val Queens won their ti­tles per­form­ing their tal­ents in a Wob Dwiyet. Their ca­lyp­sos were writ­ten fully in Kweyol. There are still some of us who prac­tice the lan­guage. Some of us do not know it flu­ently (my­self in­cluded), only be­cause our par­ents did not speak Kweyol with us.

A pop­u­lar quote from Ma­hatma Gandhi says: “A na­tion’s cul­ture re­sides in the hearts and soul of its peo­ple.” In Saint Lu­cia how­ever, our cul­ture re­sides in our stom­achs. As a young per­son, I can proudly say this gen­er­a­tion’s na­tional dish has not be­come mac­a­roni & cheese. We still very much en­joy our lo­cal foods, and on Jounen Kweyol there is noth­ing we look for­ward to more than coal pot ac­cras, crab calalou and of course green­figs and salt­fish. We still burst bam­boo (I surely do) and are very fa­mil­iar with the mas­quer­ade tune. Like I said, we’re not com­pletely dis­in­ter­ested. This year plenty ac­tiv­i­ties were or­ga­nized for the month of Oc­to­ber as usual. I was priv­i­leged enough to at­tend a work­shop or­ga­nized by the Gros-Islet Cul­tural Her­itage Month Com­mit­tee, (Oui, mweh se jenn Gros-Islet). I learnt a num­ber of folk dances from mem­bers of He­len Folk Dancers, a cre­ole poem by Derek Wal­cott, how to prop­erly wear a Wob Dwiyet, how to make head-pieces and so many other in­ter­est­ing as­pects of our her­itage. I am happy that these ef­forts still ex­ist and that some young peo­ple will­ingly at­tend. It shows that our cul­ture and her­itage will not die out com­pletely in our gen­er­a­tion.

All is not lost for my gen­er­a­tion. Kweyol and ev­ery­thing that makes us au­then­ti­cally Saint Lu­cian is very much still alive.

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