Kweyol-la ka Bwiye!
Hello Again, St. Lucia,
Bonjou Encore, Ste Lisi,
It never ceases to amaze me how the celebration of Jounen Kweyol has, in the
past few years, touched the lives of almost every St. Lucian at home and abroad.
As with Christmas, it has become a season with a standard place on the island’s
annual calendar of cultural activities. Vweyman, Jounen Kweyol vini mem kon
The first celebration of Jounen Kweyol was 21 years ago, in 1983. Since then it
has gone down in the history of the media of our country as the first full day
of Kweyol Language broadcasting in the local media. Depi tann sala, tou-les-jour,
tou-les-matin, depi siz-heur, toute-moon ka tann pawol Kweyol assou wadyo-a ek
pou toute lestan jounen-a, moon ka jwen enfonmasyon assou sa ki ka pase toute
Twenty Years of Celebration
From 1984, Jounen Kweyol has been celebrated in communities across the country,
throughout the island. For an entire week preceding each Jounen Kweyol, the
nation celebrates its culture in its image.
This year was no different. Employees of private commercial houses and of the
Public Sector adorned their normally formal and sometimes plain-coloured
uniforms with touches of Madras cloth in various lengths, shapes and colours. I
saw several variations of the creative use of Madras cloth, which, for a long
time in our cultural landscape, only took pride of place as head ties, scarves
and mouchwer worn by elderly rural women. I saw broaches creatively designed and
made of miniature hats and latannier brooms. Our grandparents, our mothers and
fathers, who were the original promoters and speakers of the Kweyol language,
today speak it with pride. No longer is it regarded or treated as the language
of the persons to whom the English historian, Henry H. Breen, contemptuously and
insultingly described as “the language of toothless old women.” Jodi jou, nou
paka honte pou pale langaj natiwelle nou. Kon Earl Bousquet cadei, “Nou ka pale
kweyol ek nez nou hosey en lezere. Nou weplase honte evek l’honeur pou langaj
An Explosion of Kweyol Culture
On Friday last, there was an explosion of the Creole culture in the form of
Kweyol cuisine and a real Kweyol dress-down day. Nearly all government
departments took part. The Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of the
Public Service and others joined the commercial houses and the banks in dressing
and cooking appropriately, en twadisyon Kweyol.
The celebrations at the offices also featured exhibitions of traditional creole
items. La te ni Wob Dwiyet, Manche ek Pilon, fer passé longtan, pengne-cho,
tesson, paniez, jer, lamp kawozin en kanot. La te zhik ni chilotte kat kod.
Activities last week also included the increasingly popular pageant, La Wenn
Kweyol Ste Lisi, in which ladies in Creole attire participated from across the
island. The competition took place at the National Cultural Centre and, as
usual, it was well supported and properly patronized.
I must also applaud the schools of our island, in particular those where
students were encouraged to appreciate the culture and speak our Kweyol language
with pride. The schools are doing a great job in defending, promoting and
expressing our culture.
Celebrating at Home and Abroad…
But it is not only in St. Lucia that Jounen Kweyol is celebrated in a grand way.
In fact, I am told that everywhere you find gatherings of St. Lucians, there is
a celebration in one form or another. St. Lucians at home and abroad put aside
their differences for the period of the celebration to enjoy Creole food and
expositions of Creole culture with friends and family. Those at home basked in
the glory of having it all, while those abroad let it be known that St. Lucia is
wherever they are. They make it clear to all that we never leave our Kweyol
spirit at home. Nou ka pote Kweyol-nou epi nou, nepot kote nou alle assou
Doing Business in the Language of the People…
It is my belief that while Government can encourage the population to promote
its culture and language, Government must also lead by example. That is why we
have encouraged our government officials to conduct the daily business of the
nation in the language of the people. This is in fact being done. The Governor
General has set the tone with her Annual Throne Speech to Parliament. The rules
in Parliament have been changed to allow our Parliamentarians to use Creole in
But while we all applaud what has become a norm even that is not enough. We all
need to do more – much more -- to continue to promote our native language. It
must always be taken from one stage to the next. We must always aim to ensure
that no stone is left unturned to ensure our National Language is brought to
life. Nou ni pou pousse Kweyol-la pli ek toujou twavay pou mettay Kweyol assou
mem pa ek Anglais.
A Language of Survival
Kweyol has survived all the discrimination of those who felt threatened by the
fact that it was a language that encouraged and promoted social cohesion among
the displaced persons of African descent in our country. Back then, the
colonizers fought the language tooth and nail. Their heirs and successors sought
to keep it outside the framework of normal discourse. They tried to diminish our
spirit and our thirst for freedom by suppressing our most reliable form of
communication, our Kweyol. Pli yo te goumen kont kweyol, pli yo te ped. Apwezan,
yo ped lajerre-a kont Kweyol totalman!
So, we have triumphed.
In singing praises to Kweyol, we must give respect where it is due – especially
to those who have laboured to bring it to where it is today.
First of all, we must continue to sing praises to Monsignor Patrick Anthony and
the founding and remaining members of the Folk Research Centre, who blazed the
trail, who set the path we follow along today. Annou bayo wespe-a you vweyman
We must applaud the writers and performers who, over the years did their part to
preserve the language, give it respect, keep it alive and place it on the world
map. We must applaud also the indomitable spirit of Dame Sessenne Descartes, who
has lived long enough to make us proud of what she has done to keep our creole
culture alive and well, through music, song and dance. Wespe, Dam Sesenne!
We must pause and recognize the early research and painstaking efforts of
persons like the late Mr Jones Mondesir, a former Chief Education Officer who
laboured to compile our first complete Kweyol Dictionary – one of two that are
of immense use to students of the language at home and abroad.
We must give praise and thanks that there is also a New Testament in Kweyol,
compiled by local and foreign linguists and researchers.
We must commend the broadcast media for keeping the language alive – our own
National Television Network (NTN), the GIS and Radio St. Lucia; the private
radio and TV stations too – they and their Kweyol broadcasters have all helped
-- and they still help to keep the language alive every day and every night of
the week – and yes, that includes Jook Bwa, who continues to both entertain and
annoy every morning and every night.
Kweyol Separates us From the Rest!
Indeed, I want to share the sentiments expressed in the editorial of the latest
issue of the Mirror newspaper, in which it says, and I quote:
“The mass interest in Kweyol heritage activities is a testament to the
importance of the language and the values it expresses to national identity.
Though aware of the historical importance of Kweyol, many people regard it for
sentimental and marketing purposes only. But a significant number of people
still depend on the language to participate in the day-to-day business of an
increasingly sophisticated society, whose values are constantly being altered
under the pressure of the global economy. In this period of global media
culture, we need Kweyol more than ever before. Kweyol is the one factor that
separates us from the rest.”
Indeed, Kweyol has led to the discovery of our soul and our spirit. Once it was
treated as a bastard language; today it is recognized as the language of St.
Lucians, the Mother Tongue of our nation, the language we best speak and
understand. Kweyol-la pa bata encore; vwey-man, Kweyol, Lang Mama-nou, ses
I am sure that most if not all of you, in one way or another, participated in
Kweyol observances over the weekend. Whether in Babonneau, Mon Repos, Belle Vue
or Anse la Raye, I have no doubt that you were able to refresh your minds and
reassure yourselves that ours is a language that has found itself and which is
moving on up. Vweyman, Kweyol-la vivan; i ka bwiye!
Here’s hoping that you thoroughly enjoyed the week of Jounen Kweyol observances,
which culminated our four weeks of activities in observance of Kweyol Heritage
Month. Now, let’s sober-up and get back to work.
Until next week, may the Good Lord bless and keep you; and do enjoy the rest of