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A dwindling art in Seychelles beloved by some homemakers: the raffia window

Victoria, Seychelles | February 15, 2017, Wednesday @ 15:47 in National » GENERAL | By: Daniel Laurence and Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 1452
A dwindling art in Seychelles beloved by some homemakers: the raffia window

A house with its raffia window at Les Canelles (Seychelles News Agency)

Photo license  

A local craftsman is among a dwindling number of people keeping alive an old tradition in Seychelles -- making raffia windows. 

Jean-Claude Quatre, who resides at Anse a la Mouche, in the district of Anse Boileau in the west of Mahe, told SNA that he is one of the few remaining people in Seychelles who knows how to make raffia windows.

“The craft is slowly disappearing. Therefore, we need to pass on the knowledge of producing to the future generation,” said Quatre.

The raffia window, which was largely seen in traditional houses, is made from the raffia palm tree, grown in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. The tree is native to Madagascar and can also be found along Africa’s eastern coast. 

The raffia tree and the raw materials it produce (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Over the years, with the rise in prices, raffia windows have become a luxury. A 2-metre window can cost around $300 (4000 Seychelles rupees) and this covers the painting, fitting and installation. Quatre, who can be contacted on (248) 2843295, also advises clients on the colour scheme that best suits their house décor.

Quatre told SNA he learned the craft from a friend and has been producing locally for five years.

The craftsman, who also sources raw materials from Praslin, Seychelles second-most populated island, said there is a specific time for harvesting raffia, which is the main material use in the process of making the window. It is also very strong and can last for a long time. 

Couple working with raffia at Anse a la Mouche (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Another advantage of the raffia is that it can be easily painted and molded into different shapes. However, not all craftsmen like using the local trees, which are protected under the law.

John Quilindo, forestry officer in the department of environment, said, “It (raffia) grows along the river bank and acts as a buffer against pollution, so it is naturally protected under the law. You will need a permit to cut it down on government land.”

SNA spoke to some owners of the raffia windows Quatre made.

Lysianne Barbier said she is very satisfied with her window, which is placed in her veranda. 

Raffia curtains can be seen at with the veranda of the house at Les Canelles (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

“They add colour, texture and dimension to my place and create a casual atmosphere of sheer elegance. I bought two of it, and I can simply say that I love the homely feel of them,” Barbier said.

Barbier added that “aside of it being stylish, the reason I have it outside is to block the sun and to protect my furniture from the rain.”

Jeanne Gedeon, a home decorator, said raffia windows can help you save on costs over time as it is more durable and is easy to clean and paint.

“Not only does it provide oriental elegance to your home, but the whole concept of using raffia gives an eco-friendly touch. It’s bringing nature closer to your home,” said Gedeon.

She added: “With the surge in online buying, home owners had slowly discarded its use, but now it is starting to pick up again.”

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Tags: native, department of environment

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