Our first paper ‘Premie Konvansion Kreol-Kreol Lite, Kreol Kapav’, published in Forum on 1st October presented the context, rationale, objectives, proceedings and expected outcome of the Kreol Convention which will be held on Sunday 27th October 2013 at the Auditorium Octave, Wiehe, University of Mauritius. This paper presents the philosophy underpinning a research study which will be presented at the convention. It will be the first of a series of Kreol Convention publication.
We take the term voice from postcolonial theory which establishes intellectual spaces for subaltern people to speak for themselves and in their own voices. Subaltern studies provide valuable insights into the situation of the Kreols in Mauritius. Subaltern is defined as a social group which is socially, geographically and politically outside the hegemonic power of the hegemonic power structure. The Truth and Justice Commission Report (2011) corroborates the dispossessed and disadvantaged position of the Kreols. In terms of discrimination, TJC confirms that “there is enough evidence collected in numerous surveys, including those conducted by the Commission, which show that Creoles are discriminated against and do not enjoy the same fruits of development to the same extent as others do. As several surveys undertaken by the Commission indicate, discrimination and racial stereotyping also persist. The work of Bunwaree (1997), Eriksen (2007) and Geetanjalee Gill (2010) also highlight this”. Young Kreol women especially of the African phenotype are the most to suffer racial prejudice. The TJC Report states that “The Commission finds that black-skinned, young Creole, or slave descendant, women in Mauritius experience the worst form of racism. They are often the ones harassed and harangued. They receive the poorest levels of service. They are most discriminated against in public and Government spaces.” About the locality of the Kreols, the Report writes “The stigma associated with residence in majority Creole areas, such as cités, means that the Creoles and members of the working class are confined to, and expected to participate in, class and «race» specific leisure activities.” Even in education, “Self deprecating views of Creole identity persist amongst contemporary youths, because of the invisibility of positive Creole representation in the school curriculum and in society. In other words, Creoles need more positive role models, not only drawn from Mauritian society, but also from among African diaspora people beyond Mauritius”. Thus, the dice are loaded against the Kreols.
However, it is interesting to note that post colonial theories posit that subaltern position in society is not irreversible. The status quo can be challenged and the concept of agency comes in which refers to the socio-culturally mediated capacity to act. Besides, the notion of hope from a Christian perspective defines hope not as naive optimism but to act in patience and perseverance for a better world. Neither does it mean to fold our arms and wait. It is within this perspective that voice through narratives or story telling become self-liberating for the Kreols. This is the how the Kreols can act upon the dominant discourse which put the blame upon the Kreols and which pervades our power structures. The Kreol Convention aims at deconstructing this discourse of oppression. The Kreol Convention will focus on narratives of young Kreol adults who have succeeded in completing their secondary education and are currently pursuing higher education. It has been observed that through narratives we define who we are. In fact, it is not the self that constructs the narrative but the narrative constructs the self. In fact, the narratives are not self-glorification but they reconnect people to their own past, appealing to their memory.
Memory and Narratives
Writing on the Fiji Indians, post colonial writer Nandan refers to memory as dynamic and empowering. The writer considers that memory is not lying static underground waiting to be unearthed like an antique pot. ‘We represent while we remember, we reconstruct while we remember […]. Remembering creatively is important for empowerment […]’. The writer refers to the Hawaiian poet Juliet Kono who says, “Our ability to reflect on and consider the past – as well as acknowledge it and honor it – may well be one of our best and most under-valued traits as creative and thinking beings.” During the Kreol Convention, young Kreol adults acting as role models will come forward, dig into their memory and relate their stories. In fact, through the Kreol narratives, we will know about the life history of this group in contemporary Mauritius.
From Nothingness to Resilience
The history of the Kreols show that they have moved from nothingness to resilience. The theme Kreol Lite…Kreol Kapav ( Kreol Struggle…Kreol Make it Happen) translates this capacity to cope in adversity. The spirit and form of this Convention translates a Kreol ethos. The situation of the Kreols has been addressed not in terms of explaining to, but rather entering into dialogues with the Kreols about their actions. This is more paying respect to the people than to adopt a patronising attitude. In the words of Paolo Freire, “no pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption”. A research study has been conducted in the District of Black River River with nine young Kreol adults who have completed their secondary education and are now pursuing higher studies. This research adopted a Critical Emancipatory Research (CER) framework whereby researcher and participants are co-researchers. This type of research is the first of its kind in Mauritius. Breaking from the Western traditions of research, the researchers who are also members of KDPF, define themselves as Kreol co-researchers with the participants and attempt a socially aligned / constructivist approach in order to free themselves from a positivist epistemology in educational research and its asocial ramifications. The findings will be discussed at the Convention.
Jimmy Harmon-Member of Komite Diosezin Premie Fevriye
22 September 2013