REUNION’S PRESENCE EVERYWHERE IS TESTAMENT TO A VERY SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
(Posted 28th October 2013)
‘Is Reunion your choice partner in cultural and tourism cooperation’ I asked the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St. Ange earlier in the day and he quipped back with the broadest of smiles lighting up his face: ‘We have choice partners in everything we do, everyone cooperating with us is a choice partner’ to which an earlier quote of his came to my mind when he highlighted Seychelles’ policy of ‘we are friends with all and enemies of none’. He did however confirm that clearly a very special relationship had developed over the past years with the Ile de la Reunion, regular participants in the annual Carnaval de Carnivals, the Carnival International de Victoria and also in the annual Festival Kreol, where Reunion arrived with the largest delegation of performers, journalists and officials, led by none other than the President of the Regional Council of Reunion, Didier Robert.
Reunion used the opportunity to be in the Seychelles in big numbers by first staging a sustainable energy exhibition before then being at the forefront again of commissioning a solar energy system at the Constance Ephelia Resort. Reunion went on to partnering with the Seychelles in several aspects of the culture side of the Festival Creol, when they committed funds to the rehabilitation of the ‘Cimetiere Bel Air’ where many of the early French settlers were buried. ‘We want to showcase this to our visitors because it is part of our history and that is something we take very seriously here’ said an official of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
The Bel Air cemetery was created in the early 1780’s and was the first burial place after the creation of L’Etablissement du Roi by the French Government. The cemetery contains the graves and vaults of the first French settlers – the founding families over 200 years ago of some of today’s great Seychellois names. At the cemetery are the tombs of some notable personalities whose names are enshrined in the first chapter of the Seychelles history. Sadly were many graves buried under mud and debris during the great landslide (lavalas) of 1862 while others were dislodged and washed away at the time in the raging floods. Today, the rubble of broken tombs, dilapidated vaults and rusted wrought-iron crosses constitute precious fragments of the Seychelles history. The Bel Air cemetery was officially closed in1902 but was eventually declared a National Monument in 1985.
And then it was time to move to the next stop, ‘Venn’s Town – Mission Lodge’ which came into sight high above the beautiful beaches of the island deep inside the Morne National Park.
The Seychelles have applied to have Mission Lodge recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for culture and with the support of Reunion it should be easier to accomplish that goal in the near future.
The last major stop of the morning was then at the Institute Creole, or ‘Lenstiti Kreol’ in the right language and here it was again Reunion coming to the aid of the institute with a sizeable donation of books and learning materials which will assist the students of the institute to appreciate the language, poetry, writings and music even more. The Creole Institute is unique around the Creole world as it brings a scientific approach to the studies of all things Creole and it is hoped that in the not too distant future the phrase coined by this correspondent at the opening press conference of ‘The Creole Nation’ will indeed take root and become an accepted fact, a fact of the Creole people, all over the world, becoming one, united through language, culture, art, food and music of course.
Watch this space as the Festival Kreol continues until the 31st of October when a colourful gala with performances from across the Creole world and nation will close the 28th festival in style.