The Woyingi Blog

Saint Lucia’s Creole Heritage Month

Posted in Countries: Saint Lucia by the woyingi blogger on November 1, 2010

October is Saint Lucia’s Creole Heritage Month. Saint Lucia is a small tear-drop shaped Windward Caribbean Island.

It is home to two Nobel Laureates, Derek Walcott, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature and Sir Arthur Lewis, the first Black person to win a Nobel Prize in a category other than peace, he won the 1979 Nobel Prize for Economics, the same year St. Lucia gained independence from Britain.

According to Kennedy “Boots” Samuel:

Creole came out of the African colonial experience. One of the things the colonial system tried to do was wipe out the culture of the Africans, but the Africans always found ingenious ways of preserving their culture across the generations and the Creole language creole language (krēōl`), any language that began as a pidgin but was later adopted as the mother tongue by a people in place of the original mother tongue or tongues.  is a classic example. They preserved the deep structure of their language, the syntax and the semantics, by hiding it within the words of the dominant colonial language. It was referred to as ‘broken French’: ‘There go the natives trying to speak our French language without speaking it properly,’ but in reality, it was a totally different language operating under the guise of French vocabulary.

Saint Lucia's Flag

Creole Heritage Month is organized by The Folk Research Centre. The month culminates in International Creole Day, which takes place on October 28th but Saint Lucia also celebrates Jounen Kweyol on the Sunday which is closest to  October 28th. The island’s first Jounen Kweyol was celebrated in 1983. A day-long Creole broadcast of news and entertainment highlighted by a radio link-up with the Creole-speaking island of Dominica took place. This was a landmark event for a language that historically has been ignored and even suppressed in favor of English. Creole Heritage Month events are usually organized in selected rural villages where Kweyol language and culture are strongest. The national dress, Madras (a plaid-like material), is usually worn by community members at these events. Walaba, an indigenous sport similar to cricket, is played.

According to their website:

The Folk Research Centre (FRC) was established in 1973 as repository for cultural heritage, a vehicle for research, study, recording and promulgating Saint Lucia’s rich heritage.  It houses an extensive library of publications, audio visual recordings and photographs and is the major study centre for work carried out into Saint Lucia’s folk culture by both nationals and visiting researchers and students.  

The FRC’s primary thrust in public sensitisation and promotion of Creole culture culminates in October with Creole heritage month.  Jounen Kwéyòl celebrated at the end of October, is a community based celebration of Creole food, music and folk traditions and is observed in conjunction with Journée internationale du Créole.  Jounen Kwéyòl has grown since its inception in 1984 and has gained so much momentum as to become one of the most anticipated events on the national calendar.

The FRC is dedicated to the values of koudmen, the spirit of cooperation, and the responsible stewardship of Saint Lucia’s cultural heritage and resources, and as such is committed to cooperation with other local, regional and international bodies in its efforts to promote a global understanding of culture in development.

Although most Creoles have their origin in a mixture of French and indigenous and/or African languages they are not mutually understood. For example, Saint Lucia and Dominica’s Creole is not understood by Haitian speakers of Creole.

Further Reading:

Saint Lucia Folk Research Centre Website

St. Lucia’s Creole core: language and culture play a key role in this Caribbean nation’s struggle for a new path to economic development by Suzanne Murphy-Larronde (article available online)

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