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From Mayotte to Seychelles: Women of island nations compare cultural notes

Victoria, Seychelles | December 14, 2019, Saturday @ 08:00 in Entertainment » ARTS & CULTURE | By: Sharon Ernesta | Views: 3929
From Mayotte to Seychelles: Women of island nations compare cultural notes

According to the officer the project "From Mayotte to Seychelles: discovering 'debaa'" invites participants to discover Mayotte. (Sharon Ernesta, Seychelles News Agency) 

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A delegation from Mayotte – a French department in the Indian Ocean – was in Seychelles for a cultural and heritage exchange.

"Mayotte is a French island so close to Seychelles but at the same time little is known here about the island. We found it really important to highlight the two neighbours of the Indian Ocean,” explained Mathilde Crochet, the cultural development and communication officer at the Alliance Française.

The group’s visit is possible through a project initiated by the French Alliance of Seychelles.

Crochet added that “Mayotte and Seychelles share many similarities: an ocean, the French language, beautiful beaches, and marine environment, with their cooking revolving around fish and coconut as well as many others.”

According to the officer the project "From Mayotte to Seychelles: discovering 'debaa'" invites participants to discover Mayotte, its culture and more particularly its traditional dance called the 'debaa'.  

The dance associated with it mobilises exclusively the upper parts of the body. Between ancestral tradition and living art, 'debaa' is an important part of the Mahoran culture. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY

Reserved for women, this song and dance art is linked to the Arab-Muslim tradition and is inspired by mystical poems praising the birth and life of the prophet. The population of Mayotte is predominantly of the Muslim faith.

The dance associated with it mobilizes exclusively the upper parts of the body. Between ancestral tradition and living art, 'debaa' is an important part of the Mahoran culture.

During their weeklong visit, the women have had the chance to showcase the ‘debaa’ and its importance for the Mahoran community, to the locals through different performances.

“A very enriching cultural experience for our ambassadors but above all a human adventure that welded these women around a common heritage and it is very emotional that they left to return to their homes,” Marie – Josee Karake, a member of Mayotte’s delegation, told SNA.

Along with the dance, the Creole Language and Culture Research Institute of the University of Seychelles hosted the group to a day of intercultural exchange with their Seychellois counterparts. The day also included a panel discussion.  

Along with the dance, the Creole Language and Culture Research Institute hosted the group to a day of intercultural exchange with their Seychellois counterparts. (Marie Josee Karake) Photo License: CC-BY

The head of the institute, Penda Choppy, said the “round table discussion was about women and their roles in society, especially in the conservation and transmission of culture. It also focused on the common projects of women in Seychelles and in Mayotte.”

Jenita Laporte who accompanied a group at the discussion said that this was an eye-opening and unique opportunity to embrace another Indian Ocean island.

“We hope that Seychellois women can now have the chance to bring our culture to Mayotte, not only dances but in terms of music, our culinary and much more, which makes us a unique and diverse nation.”

Karake did confirm future activities between the two nations. “Upcoming projects include an exchange with a kindergarten in Mayotte, a visit by Seychelles' Association of the Elderly, as well as possible participation of Mayotte in the Creole festival held in Seychelles.”

The exchange was also an opportunity for young people and the public in general to discover more about Mayotte, the lagoon island that is not very well known but shares the Indian Ocean with the 115 islands of Seychelles.

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Tags: Creole Language and Culture Research Institute of the University of Seychelles, Alliance Française des Seychelles, debaa

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