The Dutch were the first to colonise the island, now known as Mauritius, in the 17th century and they brought slaves from Senegal where the slave market was thriving. Most probably the slaves were from the Wolof tribe. In the early 18th century when they put an end to the settlement, they left behind the slaves who later settled down in a region of Port Louis, today known as Camp Yolof. They could be considered as the first inhabitants of Mauritius, our first ‘natives’.
Under the French, slaves were brought from East Africa and probably from Mozambique and Madagascar. This gave rise to the appellation “Kreol Mazanbik”.
After the abolition of slavery, the British administration recruited workers in India and most came from Bihar and spoke Bhojpuri, a member of the Bihari group of Indo-Aryan languages. There were also workers from Maharashtra in the centre-west and Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the south-east. In Mauritius the identity of Indian workers was determined, inter-alia, by the name of the port of embarkation. Hence Bihari workers of Hindu faith were/are called ‘Kalkita’ because they boarded their ships in the port of what was known as Calcutta (Kolkata now); workers who boarded their ships in what was known as Bombay (now Mumbai) were/are called ‘Bombay’; those who sailed from Madras, now Chennai, were/are called ‘Madras’ and ‘Korengi’ became the identity tag for those who probably left their coastal village of Korangi in the east of Godavari district, in Andhra Pradesh and became an identity tag of Telugus in general for quite some time.
Most Muslims (16-17% of the population) came from Bihar and were Bhojpuri speakers but to distinguish themselves from non-Muslims from India, they successfully carved a new identity based on language (Urdu) and religion (Islam). Moreover, they made of Pakistan the ‘pseudo-homeland’ of their ancestors and now they seem to be trying to develop some form of Arab identity.
As for the Chinese (about 3% of the population), they came in several migratory waves. They were mainly craftsmen and business people.

Besides class division, Hindus are divided along linguistic lines (Marathi (3%), Telugu(3%) and Tamil)(6%); there are those who proudly exhibit their attachment to Bhojpuri and those who claim that they are Hindi-speaking. Bhojpuri according to Wikipedia “is considered to be a dialect of Hindi in India despite its own vast literature, grammar and script which is often a subject of debates. Bhojpuri is an Eastern Indo Aryan language while Hindi is a Central Indo Aryan language.”

Another division is along socio-religious practice – division between Arya Samajist and Sanatanist. To this we must add caste division.

In her paper entitled “UNDERSTANDING THE CASTE SYSTEM IN MAURITIUS”, Dr Shakun Harris writes: “Varna Dharma” was a division of labour according to the different aptitudes, capacities or qualities of people. People had a sort of achieved status. Nevertheless, the ‘varna of Brāhmans’ commonly identified with the priests and learned class, is the “Maraze” in Mauritius. The ‘varna of Kshatriyas’ associated with rulers and warriors including property owners, are the “Baboojee” in Mauritius. Besides, the ‘varna of Vaishyas’ associated with businessmen, farmers and traders are the “Vaish” in Mauritius and are also in majority on the island. At last, the ‘varna of Shūdras’, that is the servile labourers, are the “Rajput” (or “Dusadh”) and the “Ravived” (or “Chamar”) in Mauritius.


Muslims are divided along religious lines (Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya …) but Sunnis represent the majority.
Division within the Chinese community is not visible.
What is known as ‘General Population’ is divided along physiognomic lines (skin colour, type of hair, shape of lips and nose etc.) and socio-economic lines. Hence, we have ‘Kreol Site’, ‘Kreol’, “Madras Batize’, ‘Milat’ ek ‘Blan’. There are also pejorative terms which are used such as: ‘Kreol Mazanbik’ for the negro type; ‘Ferblan’ for mulatto; or euphemisms such as ‘Zanbien’ for middle class Creoles and ‘Zandkouler’ for mulatto.

In Mauritius, we love clichés such as ‘paradise island’ or ‘rainbow nation’ which were adopted to support our tourism promotion campaign and with time most Mauritians find it comfortable to think that they may reflect reality. But there is reluctance to dig deeper to discover the truth which may disturb our comfort zone. Truth is often unbearable.
What is the true nature of the island? Who are we really? Most of us prefer not to know.
There is a polysemic word which disturbs, confuses and baffles most Mauritians. It is the word ‘CREOLE’. It refers to a language, an ethnic group, a type of architecture and furniture, a specific cuisine and an island of a special type. But it is the language issue that generates most confusion and passion. Readers must be reminded that:
• Creole is not a language but a family of languages in which are found inter-alia Mauritian Creole, Haitian Creole, Sango, Afrikaans, English etc. There are more than 100 creole languages in the world.
• It is not an ethnic language, i.e., the language of Creoles in Mauritius. It is the first language/L1/mother tongue of over 90% of the population, more than 1,000,000 people.
• It was not created by African slaves in Mauritius but evolved from a NAUTICAL LINGUA FRANCA much used by sailors in the Mediterranean Basin from the 11th to the 19th centuries. This explains why Mauritian Creole and Haitian Creole are so similar. Please note that Haitian Creole is the first language/L1/mother tongue of 7 million people; it is the national and official language of Haiti, together with French.

Franco-Creoles love to think of Mauritius as Little France and ‘Kalkitas’ under the influence of the Hindutva ideology dream of making of Mauritius a ‘Chota Bharat’ or ‘Little India’. They will fail in their attempts for Mauritius is and will remain a creole Island as defined by Professor Megan Vaughan in her book “Creating the Creole Island”, Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius. In her own words: “by ‘creole’ I simply mean that the island, without natives, has always been the product of multiple influences, multiple sources, which to differing degrees merge, take root, and ‘naturalize’ on this new soil.”
Please note that the word ‘creole’ here has nothing to do with ethnicity.

We are all immigrants here. Immigrants from different regions of Africa, some countries of Europe and some countries of Asia (India and China specially).
Trying to preserve ancestral and existing customs and values maybe praiseworthy if, and only if, they do not hinder the development and growth of new outlooks and ways of life, for it is imperative for us to chart new courses if we wish to survive and prosper. Nurturing ancestral values must be complemented by innovation and the building of a supra-ethnic national culture together with a new approach to economic and political organisation. We have to adopt a new way of life to equip us for the battle against global warming and climate change. What does this entail?
• A new language policy which paves the way to universal literacy and genuine bilingualism in our 2 creole languages i.e., our national language (Mauritian) and our official language (English); facilities are to be given for the mastering of a third and fourth language.
• Food security should be a top priority based on the principle of “eat what you grow and grow what you eat”. Our food habit must change. We cannot go on importing 85% of our food needs. Moreover, we must learn to eat healthy and thus avoid diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, pathologies which at present affect over 40% of the population.
• Mauritius should be divided into some 12-15 municipalities which are more or less self-sufficient to avoid unnecessary travelling to go to work, to go to school, to deal with administrative matters or to do one’s shopping. Intermunicipal transport and travel will be done by electric vehicles.
• Fossil fuels should be replaced by green energy – solar, wind, bagasse etc. People should be encouraged to use muscle power as much as possible. All roads should have bicycle lanes.
• We should privilege trade, commerce and economic transactions with our neighbours – Reunion, Madagascar, South Africa- to reduce the emission of CO2. Localisation should replace globalisation.
• We should learn to live in harmony with nature and not behave as predators.

This is not a political manifesto. It is a survival kit. We live on a creole Island; we speak 2 creole languages. One is vital for the building of a healthy progressive nation. The other is already a quasi-universal language. We have all, as Afro-Creoles, Franco-Creoles, Indo-Creoles and Sino-Creoles, the duty to show to the world THE NEW PATH.

Yes, the dwarf will teach the giant what is best for humanity.



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