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Culture in Mauritius
 
 
 

General

European, Indian, Chinese and African cultures converge together to make up the colourful, vibrant culture of Mauritius that is replete with some of the most fascinating and years-old customs and traditions. Each aspect of Mauritian culture-its cuisine, religions, festivals, language and literature is a living proof of the myriad Asia, African and Western influences.

The Mauritian culture's rich diversity is evident in Mauritius' landscape where churches, temples and mosques jostle each other for space. Chinese pagodas and Buddhist temples are also a common sight in Mauritius. The people of Mauritius celebrate various festivals belonging to different religions with equal gusto and fervour such as Mahashivratri, Diwali, Ganesh Chathurti, Eid-Ul-Fitr, Christmas, Easter and Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) among others. The Tamil festival of Thaipusam that celebrates Lord Muruga is a penitence ritual that involves spectacular feats like the fire-walking ceremony.

Literature

While Kreol Morisyen (Mauritian Creole) is the most spoken language in Mauritius, most of the literature is written in French, although many authors write in English, Bhojpuri and Morisyen, and others such as Abhimanyu Unnuth, in Hindi. Mauritius's renowned playwright Dev Virahsawmy writes exclusively in Morisyen.

Important authors include Malcolm de Chazal, Ananda Devi, Raymond Chasle, Loys Masson, Marcel Cabon, and Edouard Maunick. Lindsey Collen has been able to carve out a meeting of imaginaries in the unique social setup of this multi-faceted country. Other younger writers like Shenaz Patel, Amal Sewtohul, Natacha Appanah, Alain Gordon-Gentil and Carl de Souza explore the issues of ethnicity, superstition and politics in the novel. Poet and critic Khal Torabully has put forward the concept of "coolitude", poems that result from the blend of Indian and Mauritian cultural diversity. Other poets include Hassam Wachill, Edouard Maunick, Sedley Assone, Yusuf Kadel and Umar Timol.

The island plays host to the coveted Le Prince Maurice Prize, a literary award celebrating and recognising 'writers of the heart'. The award is designed to highlight the literary love story in all its forms rather than for pure romantic fiction. In keeping with the island's literary culture, the prize alternates on a yearly basis between English-speaking and French-speaking writers.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is of Franco-Mauritian origin and lives on the island for part of each year.

Performing Arts

Sega is a local folklore music which has African roots and the main traditional instruments for producing the music are goat-skin percussion instruments called ravanne, the West African djembe and metallic clicks, using metal triangles. The songs usually describe the miseries of slavery, and has been adapted nowadays as social satires to voice out inequalities as felt by the blacks. Men are usually at the instruments while women perform an accompanying dance. The origin of sega is not completely known however it is likely to have come from West African countries such as Ghana due to the similarities in the music.

Events & Festivals

Chinese Spring Festival or Chinese New Year

The Spring Festival, which is the Chinese New Year, is celebrated in January/February, depending on the adjustment of lunar days. Red, symbol of happiness, is the dominant colour. Food is piled up to ensure abundance during the year and the traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends. Firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits.

Maha Shivaratree

Maha Shivaratree is celebrated in honour of Hindu God, Siva (February). Hindu devotees, clad in spotless white, carry the kanwar – wooden arches covered with flowers – on pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, to fetch holy water from the lake. The whole scene is reminiscent of the great rituals on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India.


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