Jounen Kwéyòl Entenasyonal (International Creole Day) is officially October 28. However, Saint Lucians across the island participated in activities leading up to the day this past weekend. Throughout the island the sounds of Creole and folk music filled the air mixed with the aroma of locally prepared dishes.
It was almost three decades ago, (1981 to be exact) that a group of researchers and scientists came together under the heading “Banzil Kwéyòl” to host an international symposium with representatives from French Créole speaking nations like Saint Lucia, Dominica, Haiti, Martinique and Seychelles. Out of this, the first Jounen Kwéyòl Entenasyonal was established on 28 October 1983. Since then, the 28th October has been celebrated annually in all Créole countries and communities the world over.
In Saint Lucia October has now been adopted as Creole Heritage Month with activities like Juenes Kwéyòl, La Wa ek La Wen Kwéyòl and Kwéyòl mock weddings and funerals taking place. Last weekend was merely a culmination of the national festivities and started with schools and business houses across the island hosting their own activities which included food preparation and cultural showcases. The officially designated communities by the FRC for the hosting of events however were Boguis, Soufriere and Vieux Fort. However across Saint Lucia on Sunday in various communities and homes the event was marked with the traditional preparation of food, folklore events and craft exhibitions.
Of all the communities I visited, Boguis seemed to have taken the lead this year and its location and country life ambience, brought out a special feel. The community organized several river limes and Samedi Kwéyòl activities leading up to last Sunday, underscoring the fact that the Sunday was merely a finale. Their weekend started off with a solo group on Friday night which drew a large crowd and continued Saturday into a J’ouvert. Sunday morning breakfast in Boguis unveiled quite a lot from manicou and stew pork to lamowi and bake woti, crayfish, toti and of course cocoa tea and a whole lot more.
Vieux Fort appeared well organized with a neat layout of their booths. But for some it did not appear authentic since the town did not boast the country scene of say Boguis. Still there was much variety on sale for lunch which included a wide range of sea food, meats as well as locally made snacks and condiments. Soufriere, which in the end had their official status by the FRC revoked after much controversy from groups in the community, went ahead with a different group. The last minute change in venue to the open field seemed to have affected their plans and there appeared to be somewhat of a damper on the event. Which had me thinking; the success of Jounen Kwéyòl is balanced on the premise that it is of the people and for the people and is yet untainted by politics. And any attempt to allow petty politics to infiltrate this celebration will render it paralyzed.
The event brings families and friends together in a celebration of food, music and our second language Kwéyòl. The fact that there is a greater spend around this time, with most of it staying in the local economy is also a positive thing. And if the young people who have embraced this as an event, wearing their creative Madras pieces on the day, can pick up a word or two in Kwéyòl and recognize that music expands beyond Movado, Vybz Kartel and Jay Z; then I am not mad at this either.