“Dances of Yesterday” (Danses d’Hier) by Antoine Abel

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Antoine Abel, Seychelles’ most prominent author

One of Seychelles’ most acclaimed and prolific author is the writer Antoine Abel, who had been an ambassador of the indigenous culture of the island nation. He is considered by many as the father of Seychelles’ literature, and had an extensive career writing novels, short stories, poetry and plays in FrenchEnglish, and Creole. Most of his work dealt with the folklore of the Seychelles, and the natural environment of the islands, in which he wove in colorful personalities and histories inspired from the local culture. Descending from a family of slaves, he is the first Seychellois writer to expose to wide world to the literary gems of the country.

Below is one of his poems, ‘Dances d’hier‘ translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com. Enjoy the poem below, and also check out The Seychelles Ministry for Youth Sports and Culture which ‘remembers Antoine Abel.’

 

 

Danses d’hier

J’entends encore les staccatos
Le prolongement des sons des tam-tams
Des tam-tams du temps jadis

Alors les collines s’enflamment
Dans la nuit sèche
Les pieds des danseurs
Se baignent dans la fine poussière
De latérite
Et leurs pas scandent sauvagement
Un rythme endiablé

J’entends encore les notes rapides
La voix étouffée du « commandeur »
Se modulant dans l’air tiède du soir.

Alors les échines s’arc-boutent
Les unes aux autres
Et les hanches roulent comme des houles
Les ventres des danseuses voluptueuses
Ondulent lascivement…
Et des voix confuses s’interpellent
Impudemment.

Je perçois toujours les staccatos
Les grondements des “grosses caisses”
Par delà les années de mon enfance …
Je les porte en moi
Comme des stigmates.

Dances of Yesterday

I still hear the staccatos
The extension of the sounds of the drums
The drums from the old days

Then the hills ignite (flare)
In the dry night
The dancers’ feet
bathe in the fine dust
of laterite
And their steps wildly chant
A frenzied rhythm

I still hear the quick notes
The muffled voice of the « commander »
Modulating in the warm evening air.

Then the backs bridge
One with the other
And the hips roll like swells
The bellies of the voluptuous dancers
Wave sensually…
And confused voices call out
Impudently.

I still perceive the staccatos
The rumblings of the “big drums”
Beyond the years of my childhood…
I carry them in me
Like stigmas.

Why the Name: Seychelles?

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Flag of Seychelles

Have you ever wondered about the meaning for the name of the country Seychelles? Somehow to me, it has always felt like it should be a derivative of ‘sea shells’, especially given that it is an island country located in the middle of the Indian ocean. I picture sandy beaches, blue waters, coconuts, and then ‘sea shells‘ seems like a perfect name for such a beautiful place. How far am I from the truth?

 

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Victoria, capital of Seychelles, in the 1900s

Well, it turns out that the Seychelles islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV‘s Minister of Finance, in 1756 when the French set a Stone of Possession on the islands Mahé. Before then, it was a transit point for trade between Africa and Asia. The first visitors to the island were probably Arab traders, but the earliest recorded sighting by Europeans took place in 1502 by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral). The earliest recorded landing was in January 1609, by the crew of the “Ascension” under Captain Alexander Sharpeigh during the fourth voyage of the British East India Company.

 

The islands went under British control in 1814 after the Napoleonic wars. Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903. In 1976, Seychelles became independent from the United Kingdom as a republic within the Commonwealth.

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Seychelles national bird: The Seychelles black parrot

Seychelles is located in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 km (994 mi) east of Kenya. The capital of the 115island countryVictoria, lies 1,500 km (932 mi) east of mainland East Africa. The majority of its islands are uninhabited with many dedicated as nature reserves. With a population of roughly 94,228, it has the smallest population of any sovereign African country.  Its population is a melting pot of African, French, Indian, and Chinese, where the largest group is of African descent. The food and music duly reflect this fusion of cultures.

 

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Victoria, Seychelles, today

After proclamation of independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, Seychelles has developed from a largely agricultural society (main exports were cinnamon, vanilla, and copra) to a market-based diversified economy, with agriculture being supplanted by rapidly rising service and public sectors as well as tourism. Seychelles is among the world’s leading countries to protect lands for threatened species, allocating 42% of its territory for conservation. Seychelles today is known for success stories in protecting its flora and fauna.

 

Thus, if you visit Seychelles today, be amazed by its ‘sea shells’, sandy beaches, beautiful fauna, and flora. Enjoy!