Presentation on theme: "Reunion was a 2,500 square km esert island in the Indian Ocean that was colonised by the French in the XVII th century. During the last 350 years of its."— Presentation transcript:
Reunion was a 2,500 square km esert island in the Indian Ocean that was colonised by the French in the XVII th century. During the last 350 years of its short history, Reunion Island has seen numerous waves of migration from the planet's dominant cultures (mostly Chinese, Indian, European and African). Hence, Reunion Island's traditional costumes reflect numerous different cultural origins.
The French land or plantation owners, who controled most of the lowlands during the colonial period, dressed European style to show their superiority. In Creole these plantation owners and their decendants are called the "groblan" meaning the "big whites" as opposed to the "little whites" or "yabes" who were often sailors fleeing poorly paid indentured servitude.
Make no mistake, not all the white colonial decendents were rich. The poorest "Yabes" or "Little Whites" often escaped civilization to live in the highlands were one could find similar climates to those in Europe generally. These "Yabes" tended to take on self-sufficient agriculural activities. Their traditional attire is cotton shirts and long trousers, ideal for outdoor works in a tropical climate. Accessories included « sapo paille » (straw hats) and straw backpack called "bertel", in which one could put a saber or long knife and a water bottle or flask, etc...
The Yabes (« Yab chouchos » also... !
The first slaves arrived with the Europeans. They were often simply dress with only trousers to protect them from from cuts caused by the leaves of the cane. By then the slave population had been asimilated by order of the Black Code and the church inspired rules of governing slavery. Now these trousers are the costume of people practicing the local martial art inherited from the slavery time called "Moringue" in Creole (originally from Africa).
After the abolishion of slavery in 1848, France collaborated with the British Empire to promote a form of immigration known as Indentured labour, often associated with the arrival of workers from the British colonies India and Hong Kong that came in Reunion to replace free slaves. First there were Indian Indentured Labourers.
Those of Indian origin conserved their traditional attire especially for hindu religious rights, walking on fire, Cavadee and Dipavali (the celebration of light).
On Reunion Island the decendants of these Indian Indentured labourers are called "Malbars" in Creole, and wear traditional clothes like the saree, chureedha, panjabee or koultaar.
Sometimes the Indian Indentured Labourers were muslims. This in part explains why the first mosque in the French Republic was built on Reunion Island at the beginning of the 20th century.
These "Zarabes", as they are called in Creole, often wear traditional Arab garments particularly when going to the mosque but also during their daily activities. One often sees muslim men wearing kofia hats and kamis white tunics or robes in Saint Denis.
Sometimes, Muslim women on Reunion Island wear when outside the niqab robe which hide every feminin aspect of their body accept their eyes and feet. This, despite a recent law in France prohibiting the wearing of such clothes in public.
ILike the Indians the Chinese came here as indeLike the Indians the Chinese came here as indentured labourers. Many came with their families and quickly became shop keepers. ntured labourers. Many came with their families and quickly became shop keepers.
They too like to wear their traditional chinese garments for major festivals like Chinese New Year...
There were also indentured labourers from Africa, often from Madagascar and Mozambique. They often arrived without family and were treated like slaves. They had at the time great difficulty intergrating into Reunion Island society
Women used to wear long swahili robes
and a shawl.
The influence of Africa can be seen in the attention women pay to how they wear their hair (braids, plaits or buns).
In recent years, many people have arrived from the Comores Island mainly from Mayotte Island, which is a French territory but not westernized. The women mostly wear a traditional "nambawani" long dress often with a muslim style head covering. The top or head covering section is called "kishali". The ankle length dress is actually a "paréo" style cloth called a "saluva". These Comores and Mayotte Island women wear a beauty mask paste on their faces which is yellow and made from sandalwood and water.
Like many areas which have received a multicultural ethnic mix thanks to the fallout from colonalism, Reunion Island developed a largely distinct culture as a result of this confrontation and mix. In the creole speaking world we call this phenomenium "créolization". Thus, there is now a Creole language, a Creole music, a Creole literature and a Creole cuisine. For example, the sega dress which tries to imitate the dress of affluent Europeans during colonial times, but with a twist: African and Indian colours. Straw hats remind the agricultural work that were so important in the history of Reunion and complete the traditional Creole attire.
Straw hats remind the agricultural work that were so important in the history of Reunion and complete the traditional Creole attire.
If one has the chance to visit our Reunion Island one day, perhaps you will be surprised by how westernized clothing standards have become. With the possible exception of the Mayotte Islanders and the Muslim community most Reunion Islanders only wear traditional ethnic clothes or attire for festivals. So, even if the Creole identity remains strong (80% of the population speaks Creole), western or European clothing dominates; moreover, traditional attire is becoming more and more « folkloric ».