Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Being mixed, créolité/creolitude, mestizaje

I come from a cultural background (through my parents) which is based on the mixture of the various peoples which inhabited the island of Mauritius (Creoles). It's not easy to define and it's not straightforward. Our heritage includes Afro-Malagasy slaves who lost most of their traditions due to discrimination that they experienced. It includes the European settlers who came and formed the most influential culture during the period of colonialism.

It is very hard to define where Creoles stand and should stand on culture, if my grandmother's Chinese my experiences would be different from a Creole who had an Indian grandfather. Each individual can take their own stand on their heritage.

There are two main foci or cultural focal points though: the African and the European which have been the most influential in defining the identity Creole culture today. The African slaves who were born in Mauritius were known as Creoles as were considered their Mauritian-born European counterparts (though Euro-Mauritians would not be called Creoles today).

The main thing I have realised from reading about similar cultures and backgrounds in the Caribbean and Latin America is that, it is not just enough to say the we are a blend of this and that. But to realise that some cultures suffered in the process, while others prospered (Africans and Native Americans versus Europeans) and that reinforced the development of our identities.

That is not to say that our European heritage is not valuable and should be rejected but we should try and honour the different parts of our heritage as something specific, tangible like the Caribbean writer Edouard Glissant says when seeing Creolitude/créolité as something which incorporates our different heritages like a rhizome (taken from contemporary European philosophers called Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari).

A rhizome is for an example the roots of grass which spread out starting new plants without a specific root starting a single tree but a connection of nodes from which we have different plants starting out.

Thus for Creoles around the world and similar cultures of mixed heritage - mixed people in Latin America (mainly of African, Native American and European heritages), each of our heritages can be seen on an equal level and be learned about to help reinforce and better define our identity today.

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