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Wednesday, October 30, 2013


In a brief FB comment, Kenny Bakie (former Manager of HOT FM and indeed my good friend) hinted at the consideration of the hosting of “Jounen Ehdianne”. In this “guava season” I’m sure it’s an initiative that the commercial sector would run away with, but what are the implications? Wouldn’t a "Jounen Endyen" lead to a sense of exclusivity and possibly cultural fragmentation? Perhaps, if Kenny listened more closely to Leonette Pierre's Palé Kwéyòl (, then he might have conceded that “Jounen Ehdianne” [in a strictly St. Lucia(n) context] may be deeply culturally embedded in Jounen Kwéyòl.

Leonette sang: "Madam, si ou sé on Sent Licien, memn si ou sé an Endyen . . . Palé Kwéyòl".  In fact throughout the song, she advocates a cultural integration by encouraging St. Lucian irrespective of identity to Palé Kwéyòl.

There's no doubt that St. Lucia is a nation of “mixed ethnicities” integrated into a whole: Amerindian, African, European, Chinese, Indian, Syrian etc. Our Kweyol may well be the one “cultural” common denominator that identifies and even differentiates us as St. Lucians. It goes far beyond the parochial Afrocentric view which seems to influence our interpretation and orientation. The global view is Kweyol is not just a language; it’s a way of life which captures a conflation of diverse cultures in a unique and dynamic way.

Leonette’s line - "Madam, si ou sé on Sent Licien, memn si ou sé an Endyen . . . Palé Kwéyòl" - dovetails neatly into the popular expression “Kweyol Kouli” (or “Kouli Kweyol”). Indeed some of the signature Indian cultural practices (like roti and dhal) have become irreversibly kweyolised to the point that they are inextricably embedded into the culture of St. Lucia. What more evidence therefore do we need to prove that kweyol runs naturally in the “Endyen blood” or vice versa?

The Endyens in Augier, Balca, Forestierre are as quintessionally Kweyol as the rest of St. Lucia. So are the persons of Amerindian descendants in Choiseul and our Shabins in Saltibus, Martin, Ponyon, Mongouge etc.

The Chappy's from Delcer are pure Caucasian; but who in St. Lucia spoke more or better Kweyol than them?

Country and Western (C&W) has arguably become the biggest “continental” component of our Kweyol to the point where Linus Modeste is referred to as the black George Jones. In fact, C&W has become so Kweyolised that we now affectionately refer to it as "Bwa". It is peripatetic and may have even overshadowed the other dance forms.

Contrary to the elite "city-centric" view that phenomena like "Bwa" are “Kweyol idiosyncrasies”, the reality is they are not.  If they were, then the very “hard core” of our cultural identity could arguably also be classified as idiosyncratic; but we are a proud people with values and customs which are dynamic. The fact that our “unofficial” national dish of green fig and saltfish does not comprise exclusively local foods does not take away anything away from us. The point is while our cultural identity must be exclusive (to an extent), it must never be exclusionary.

Even our national Flower Festivals (La Rose and La Marguerite) - the very essence of our Kwéyòl soul - did not originate here or from the mother country either. Anecdotal data from the Catholic Church archives suggest that the La Rose has Peruvian origin, hence the term “St. Rose de Lima” – Lima being the capital of Peru.

In fact, if we were to remove all the non-St. Lucian components from our Kweyol, then what would we be left with? The core of our identity would probably be seriously exposed to the elements! Just remember, like America, St. Lucia too is a nation of immigrants.

Leonette’s song is indeed a very serious “Kweyol” commentary which gives an apt historical (and telling philosophical) analysis/description of Kwéyòl at “a point in time” (which may have even been extended to the present). 

“Boots” and “Fish” and perhaps many of our Kweyol historiographers (like Dr’s Jn Pierre & Monsignor Patrick Anthony) were probably not “born in Kweyol” yet when she wrote the song . . . even if she may chronologically younger than them.

There is an “hypothesis” that the Kweyol neo-Cultural Revolution partly began in Choiseul with unsung heroes like Mc Authur Phillip, “Bolo”, Thecla Fontenard, the late Sabinus Thomas, Mr Dodo, Piaye Community Dancers etc. Those guys/ladies proactively marketed Kweyol at a time when there was a looming threat of marginalisation and even obsolescence. I'm aware that Laborie, Veux Fort North, Soufriere, etc were also in the vanguard of the renaissance.

Some Caribbean sociologist/historians contend that the Kweyol language was prevalent in Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada during the days of slavery and beyond but fizzled out with time and was eventually replaced by an English dialect. Fortunately, the St. Lucian’s went the other direction. We survived those threat of extinction - thanks to our resilience; Yes! “Rural St. Lucia” got its fair share of ridicule by the “brighter” city folk calling us “Neg Mawon” for our Kweyol culture; but that didn’t deter us.

It is instructive that the tables have now turned. The “Neg Mawons” have now been “rediscovered” as heroes by the Columbus’s of the city.

Much kudos are in order for the “post-Neg Mawon” heroes and their work. They constitute a diaspora far and wide fitted inside a little speck of dust. In Kweyol’s darkest days, they went on to ensure sustainability which helped shaped the renaissance. It was also during that tail-end of Cultural Renaissance that Leonette wrote and recorded the timeless classic Palé Kwéyòl.

It was no accident that Choiseul was chosen District to host the first historic Jounen Kweyol in 1984. That laid the platform for future successes. The first theme - “Kweyol an san nou” - (which was crafted by Choiseulians) is the mother of all themes.

Perhaps the Ministry of Creative Industries should consider the commissioning of more organised research of the models and modalities of that “epoch” that may have shaped the Kweyol Renaissance. That was the period when St. Lucia was transitioning from “Patois” to English but in the transition we made the Kweyol better and gave it greater legitimacy.

By the way, I have to pay tribute guys like Musa and his group, Lapo Kabwit, Ma Bébé, Mr Wowo, Rameau Poleon, the Soufriere Action Theatre (SAT) and the numerous groups around St. Lucia for their sterling contribution to the preservation of our Kweyol.

I’m so proud of my Kweyol; and I’m so happy that I can speak it. I may never live to see the day when Kweyol literature will be become an integral part of Lucian Literature and as a subject on our school curriculum; but I have faith it will happen one day. 

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