At The Crossroads Of Different Worlds

Culture in Rodrigues is an ode to the beauty of encounters. It keeps recalling the influences that marked the adventure of human settlement on the island. The “traditional” music results from the juxtaposition of musical forms into a medley of African and European influences, resting on two pillars. The first of its two pillars is the “sega tambour”, a blend of African and Malagasy influences which also acts as a space for social regulation. The high notes of the “maréchal” expose the failings of a neighbour or his wife, the misfortunes of a rival in love or in business, taken up by rolling drums, bass drumsticks and the “bobre” (a metal string strained over a wooden elbow and attached to a hollow pumpkin) playing in unison. The other pillar, the accordion, plays European traditional folk music – mazurka (mazok karé or krawzé), Scottish (kotis), waltz (Laval) – and forgotten lyrics are sometimes reinvented to cope with the failures of oral tradition in ensuring their transmission.

One fine day, the sega and the accordion united to the delight of dancers and musicians. Bands of young musicians also offer a wide range of contemporary musical styles – hip hop, ragga, reggae, RnB, etc. Now and then, these styles mix with the rhythms of the accordion, combining tradition with current trends.

The accordion is very popular at traditional balls taking up the tradition of “ranne zaricot” that are held on Sunday afternoons. The person who finds the bean in his slice of cake, or is crowned king or queen of the ball, must return the favour at the next ball.

Local Crafts
The history of craftsmanship in Rodrigues is as old as that of settlement on the island. The use of local materials such as vakoa (pandanus) and the vetiver gave birth to a real economic activity based on basketry – baskets, headgear, table mats, etc. Activities thus developed around the use of coconut by-products, screen printing or even wood sculpture. Local designers now offer works in keeping with the style of the day with a vision stemming from the dynamic of tradition in everyday life.

Local Arts
Activity And Vitality
Multicoloured signs hung here and there suggest the presence of a painter’s studio and are witnesses to the emergence of a form of artistic expression unique to Rodrigues. There is even a gallery in Port Mathurin where art lovers can contemplate the works of local artists. Sculpture and photography exhibitions are also held regularly. Long confined to anonymity due to their insularity, most local artists are self-taught.

Tantalizing Your Taste Buds
Two factors combine in the richness of flavours that make Rodriguan cuisine one of the tastiest in the Creole world and in the Indian Ocean region: the natural freshness of a variety of local produce and of course, the traditional know-how and recipes that have run in families for generations, like variations over the same theme: mixing intense fragrances and flavours to tickle your taste buds.

The choice is vast: a cono-cono (shellfish) salad said to have aphrodisiac virtues, a traditional corn soup, steamed crab with garden spices, an octopus curry on a bed of home-ground corn and red kidney beans from the garden, an émincé of beef in a sauce, pork in honey, boiled country ham with fine herbs, a cabri- sauté (goat) with local flavours or some country chicken with ginger and curcuma. All of it served with an assortment of condiments – sweet and sour lemon pickles, chilli and mango, papaya or octopus pastes. And for dessert, a papaya sorbet, a coconut and honey pie, sweet potato or manioc pancakes or even a traditional corn pudding for dessert.

For the time of a meal, enjoy the intensity of flavours with local produce mixing freely to ravish your palate. Enjoy without moderation a dazzling display of delights that will tantalize your taste buds.

Conviviality And Authenticity
Long isolated from the rest of the world, the inhabitants of Rodrigues have developed some kind of resilience to sometimes difficult living conditions, amplified by distance. Hence, values such as solidarity and sharing have developed. In this tight-knit community, where an authentic smile brightens up the faces of the people in the most natural manner, it is almost like everybody knows each other.

This art de vivre in its most complete sense has always prevailed within the Rodriguan society even if the island and its population have joined the modern world with the emergence of new means of communication. In the era of the Internet, it is no uncommon scene to see vehicles giving precedence to a herd of sheep. The people take time to enjoy life and let time have its way with them…

A Land Of Mixity
Fashioned by the movement of people over time, Rodrigues celebrates the uniqueness of its multi-faceted population. Since the arrival of the first European settlers in the era of French colonization, certain traces have survived over the generations. The predominance of African and Malagasy blood in the mix is explained by a wave of settlement following the abolition of slavery by the British colonial administration in 1835. The population of the island now stands at around 38,000 inhabitants and the 21st century Rodriguan is at ease with the contemporary definition of being Creole.

Roman Catholicism is the religion of a large local majority and one of the greatest prides of the Rodriguan people is to have welcomed Pope John Paul II in 1989. The island has also been granted the status of apostolic vicarage recently, with a full-fledged bishop since 2002.

The Sunday mass at the Sacré-Coeur Cathedral in Saint-Gabriel gives an indication of the attachment of the population to the expression of its faith. Other religious communities complete the picture, namely the Church of England whose followers are essentially grouped around Port Mathurin, Church of the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Assembly of God. The island also has a small community of people of Chinese origin that are integrated in the Christian churches, Muslims and Hindus.

Rodrigues’ Culture

There are a few decades ago the people of Rodrigues found their entertainment in traditional music, the sound of sega drum and accordion in small balls on Saturday evenings. Cultural awakening which occurred at the end of the 1970s allowed the construction and consolidation of the cultural identity of Rodrigues through the development of these various elements, which form the base of the culture of every nation: food, music, crafts...

It should be noted the great influence of the Catholic religion in everyday and cultural life of the population. Religion, respect for tradition and family are the pillars of Rodrigues life. Today, it can be seen that the local music and traditional dances are quite used during shows in hotels and other cultural events. It is the same for the traditional dishes; and crafts which are found everywhere in the market. These dishes which were despised have now become a luxury in major tourist and cultural events. The Rodrigues' music is present on the stage of international cultural events. Rodrigues’ culture is an asset that must not only be developed and exploited, but which above all also needs to be preserve as it is the essence of the Rodriguan cultural identity.

Rodrigues' culture

At a glance

At the heart of the Indian Ocean, at latitude 19°43’ S and longitude 63°25’ E, Rodrigues Island stretches over a surface area of 108 km2. Some 650 km to the north-east of Mauritius, it is the part of Africa that is closest to Australia. Born from volcanic activity between 1.3 and 1.5 million years ago, the island – 18 km long, 8 km wide – is the smallest of the Mascarene archipelago. Rodrigues is a mountainous island with a succession of valleys plunging to the 300 km2 lagoon, bringing an exhilarating feeling of weightlessness whilst meandering through steep escarpments and terraced fields towards its 80-km coastline. One of the most characteristic features of this enthralling though accessible island is its relief. The efforts of the most adventurous culminate in the joys of basking in one of the numerous deserted inlets, all the while gazing at white-tailed tropicbirds gliding through the air to and from their nests in surrounding cliffs. The island enjoys a tropical climate with temperatures varying between 28 and 35°C during the Southern summer, which coincides with the cyclonic season (November to April) and between 18 and 27°C in winter.


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Rodrigues in Images