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Promote the Culture Love our Kweyol Too! - September 6, 2004

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Promote the Culture
Love our Kweyol Too!


Bon jou tout moun. Ou dw ka katchil, an pami tout difwans sij, ki sa pwemy minis la kay di jodi-a? Apadi sa, ou dw ka mand kow, pou ki wzom chef la koumans konvsasyon sa la an langaj kwyol la. Wzon an byen semp. Mwen vl koz asou langaj kwyol la, k kilti kwyol nou. Annou wflshi asou ft lawoz ki ti Lendi pas, toute s moun la ki ka tjenn twadisyon nou vivan k koumans f pwepawasyon pou ft magwit k mwa Oktob l St. Lisyen kay slbw hewitaj ek kilti nou ansanm.


In parting last Monday, I wished all Saint Lucians a bon fete la woz. Last week fifteen groups participated in the celebrations, and by all accounts successful, enjoyable and as is customary with all our traditional cultural activities, incident free. Among the highlights of the celebrations were the re-emergence of two groups from the Dennery area, one of which was dormant for the past ten years. For the first time the celebrations were held over a two day period with thousands of persons attending the church service in Vieux-Fort on Sunday pi tout se gany la ka bwiy lawoz on Monday 30th August. I am sorry I missed that service because of a very late invitation.


I want all Saint Lucians to join me in congratulating all the persons who work hard to keep the tradition alive. Among the leaders were Captain Luther of the Blanchard group, Chantwlle Mary Flora Granger of Ma Bbs group in Choiseul, and Chantwlles from Mon Repos, Babonneau and all other communities.


La woz remains strong and vibrant because, amidst all the challenges of our society today, people have recognised the need to hold on to something which strengthens the spirit, inspires our creative responses to changes around us and creates bonds in communities. The call for us to rally around our culture is captured in many of the marching songs of the flower festivals.

Annou dsann mamay lawoz
Annou dsann mamay Sent Lisi
Si nou pa bwiy, nou kay mo.

While we hold onto to lawoz, and la magwit, I urge you to continue expressing tremendous pride in all cultural traditions and in particular the Kwyol language. The language is important, not merely for its colour and flair and as a means of connecting to the rich traditions of our parents and grand parents, but also as a means of sharing the feelings and thoughts of our people in the most direct yet respectful manner.

Indeed, that continues to be the tenor of our proverbs. Our Proverbs have said a lot to generations. Consider these.

Sa ki ka ba-ou konsy gayen chouval gwo vant an tan lapli pa ka endw nouwiy an tan sk . Translated, this proverb says: He who give you advice to buy an big horse with a large appetite in the rainy reason does not help you feed it in the dry season.

Here is another one. S pa tout l maman al an la plas pou i mennen bonbon. This one means: It is not every time a mother goes to a market she must bring home cakes.

And of course, there is this one captured in verse and song for many years: L bab kamawad ou pwi dif wouz sa-ou. When your friends beard is on fire take water to wet yours. Put another way: when your friend is in trouble, watch yourself!

Ever since the beginning of kwyol programmes on radio in the early seventies, many Saint Lucians have developed the confidence to express themselves, and share their views on a wide range of issues affecting their daily lives. The demands for better community services, roads, electricity and clean water are made just as effective in Kwyol as in English. Perhaps the warmest of embraces I have experienced as a parliamentarian and a leader of this country has been prefaced by greetings in Kwyol.


In 1957, the late Harold Simmons, artist, folklorist, father of St. Lucian cultural research and the institutional mentor of the Folk Research Centre opened a debate about the use of the kwyol language in the society. As the editor of the then conservative Voice of St. Lucia newspaper, Simmons exhorted St. Lucians to appreciate the language and use it freely and constructively in everyday conversations. One of his memorable cartoons in the newspaper portrayed the transition from sugar to banana production with the caption: S mwen fig ki vini pou koup kou kann

Ever since the courageous work of Harry Simmons, the research and promotion of culture and kwyol in our society took off. Numerous local and international meetings have been held in St. Lucia where a writing system was developed for the language and several instruction booklets and anthologies of creative writing have been published. The first kwyol dictionary was published by the great educator, Jones Mondesir in 1992. We have a lot to be proud of and to build on.

During my recent visit to Athens for the twenty eighth Olympics, I was struck by the manner in which Greek culture was brought to life with impeccable artistry and colour at the opening ceremony of the games. The promotion of culture at a world class sporting event like the Olympics must have lessons for all of us. As most of you who watched this ceremony would have realised that in the Greek written language St. Lucia was placed first in the parade of nations. Is there something that Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott knew that many of us did not know, when he wrote his epic poem Omeros? Is this a message for us to continue to promote and appreciate our culture. I invite you to reflect on these thoughts.


As we prepare to observe Creole Heritage Month in October, we must continue to pay tribute to all those persons who made the promotion of the language and other expressions of our culture part of their daily lives. How many of us remember Captain Eliud from Belle Vue, this master shant whose voice echoed though many community halls around the island particularly at the sances and during the celebrations of the lawoz. How many us remember Liza Maxwell of Goodlands, community organiser of both the La Woz and La Magwit celebrations. Lizaa was always humble and gracious in song:

Pwdy pou nou
Pwdy pou mamay lawoz.
Pwdy pou nou
Pwdy pou Sent Rose de Lima

How many of us remember Ruby York and Egbert Mathurin who passed on recently but have left behind their own indelible marks on our cultural landscape. And of course there are numerous other chantwlles, chanturs, and dancers, some of whom are alive and walk through our communities un-noticed. I urge you, whenever you can, to pay tribute to those persons in any small and humble way you can.

Among the cultural icons with us today are Sesenne Descartes, Clifton Doo-doo Joseph, chant and dancer of Piaye, Florita Marquis of Canaries. I urge all Saint Lucians to continue to reach out to our cultural icons.


Creole Heritage Month will be organised again through the joint efforts of the Folk Research Centre, the St. Lucia Heritage Programme and the Cultural Development Foundation. There will be a wide range of activities intended to bring Saint Lucians to places of cultural and historical importance. There will be the celebration of Jounen Kwyol in four communities and of course above all there will be many opportunities for all of us to do something positive and constructive to promote our culture and pay homage to those persons who have kept the traditions alive.

I urge you to do your part. Until next Monday, mwen ka swt tout jan Sent Lisi an pyi-a k oliwon late-a , an bon simen an la p vk lanmou. Bon Jou.



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