Creole Culture is often thought of as one, unifying type of culture. In reality, Creole is a culture shared by people living in completely different corners of the globe. While there are similarities across great distance there are also little differences that add unique style to each brand of Creole.
In 2013, the world played host to a variety of Creole celebrations that featured something distinct in each corner of the globe. While nations around the world have become increasingly connected through a global economy, many countries have maintained and promoted a strong national identity. In the wake of terrorist attacks around the globe in the 21st century, societies across the world have embraced a deeper sense of nationalism and pride. Americans are now, more than ever, staunchly independent and fiercely proud of the Red, White, and Blue.
Americans are not alone in this sentiment. Onlookers will find similar pride amongst Cubans, Britons, French, and other citizens around the globe. In light of this, it is refreshing to take a break and recount how Creole peoples in various regions celebrated not national pride, but rather cultural heritage in 2013.
The world is full of Creole festivals that take place in a variety of locations from the bayous of Louisiana in the United States, to the Caribbean, to the islands of Seychelles and Mauritius. Creole people share a lot of similarities in ethnic background, musical styles, and cuisine, but it is the little things that make each culture special. So how did the Creole world celebrate its heritage in 2013?
Creole and Cajun Culture in Louisiana
The state of Louisiana is full of celebrations of Creole culture. The Opelousas Spice and Music Festival on 4 and 5 October featured Cajun and Zydeco music, local cuisine, craft fairs, music workshops, cooking demonstrations, a barbecue cook-off, and even a pepper eating contest. Melville, LA hosted the Atchafalaya Catfish Festival from 10 to 12 October with catfish and other fine Cajun cuisines, family-friendly entertainment, and plenty of music.
The Creole Heritage Center at Northwestern State University, Natchitoches
The Creole Heritage Center at Northwestern State University (NSU), Natchitoches, Louisiana, hosts the annual Creole Heritage Celebration. Maintaining the traditions passed down to them, many Creoles today are found well beyond Louisiana’s borders. As Creoles left Louisiana over the years they often followed family members to urban areas where they could find work. These family networks provided the beginnings of Creole colonies within larger cities. Today, metropolitan areas such as Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Las Vegas all have Creole sub-populations. Native Louisiana Creoles often return to Louisiana, their “homeland.” Their cultural heritage links them back to the state and to each other as descendants of the native-born of colonial Louisiana. Creole Heritage Day follows Thursday’s Spanish Roots of Creole Culture Symposium and precedes the St. Augustine Church Fair on Saturday. Food, games, art and music are showcased each year at the Fair, which mirrors the harvest fairs held at Creole churches in Louisiana. Funds raised from the fair support the activities of St. Augustine Catholic Church, one of the oldest Creole community churches in Louisiana.
Festival International de Louisiane
Annual Festival International de Louisiane is not to be missed! For five days every April (23 – 27 in 2014) Lafayette, Louisiana becomes a global swarming of cultural happenings, a most cool United Nations sans blue helmets, sans souci, where the world language is world music sung in a lazy French accent. Over the years Festival has welcomed some of the most unique world musicians and performances. Popular Louisiana artists such as Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Allan Toussaint, Zachary Richard, Sonny Landreth, Beausoleil, Buckwheat Zydeco, Boozoo Chavis, Amedee “Bois Sec” Ardoin, Terrance Simien, C.J. Chenier, Geno Delafose, Marc Broussard, Marcia Ball, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Keith Frank and Buddy Guy, to name a few, have all performed on their stages. But it is not just music, mild-mannered Jefferson Street in Lafayette, becomes a Marrakech market-place steeped in a dark roast aroma of Zouk and Zydeco. The good times roll through like a category three hurricane.
In 1755 the Acadiens were persecuted by the ruling British in Canada and, seeking asylum and a new home, settled in the swamps and bayous of southern Louisiana. More than 300 years later, the Cajun culture that came with the Acadiens is alive and well. Louisiana is the center of Creole culture in the United States, and in addition to their Zydeco music, the Cajuns are famous for their cuisine.
Perhaps the preeminent celebration in Louisiana takes place at Girard Park in Lafayette. The Festival Acadiens et Creoles takes place each October to celebrate all things Cajun and Creole in Louisiana. The three day festival features musicians playing Zydeco, Swamp Pop, and other genres, as well as Cajun cuisine, dance celebrations, and art fairs all centered on Creole culture.
The capital city of Victoria, Seychelles is commonly referred to as the Creole Capital of the World, so it is only fitting to begin reviewing Creole celebrations from 2013 on this Indian Ocean island nation. The largest concentration of Creole peoples outside the Caribbean Sea can be found in the various island nations of the Indian Ocean.
Here on Seychelles, 2013 marked the 28th edition of Festival Kreol during which Seychelloise people celebrate the music, art, and cuisine that make their brand of Kreol, unique. Held between 25 October and 31 October, Festival Kreol featured day after day of celebrations including traditional games, art fairs, children’s dance competitions, and of course a variety of music and cuisine.
Remaining in the Indian Ocean, the celebration of all things Creole continued next door to Seychelles on Mauritius. The Festival International Kreol was one of the final celebrations of the year, taking place from 27 November to 1 December. A much younger event than on neighbouring Seychelles, the Festival International Kreol celebrated its 7th year in 2013 and featured Creole artists, musicians, and chefs from Mauritius, Seychelles, and Réunion.
The event in Mauritius is gaining popularity with each passing year. International artists Zouk Machine headlined the musical acts at the event, but there were a number of regional artists as well including Chicco Martino (Seychelles), B-Girls (Réunion), and Dominique Barret (Réunion).
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, Creole people will find the island nation of Dominica just off the northern coast of South America. Here, a deep connection between French, native Caribbean people, and African slaves has created a unique Creole culture. On this beautiful island Creoles celebrate their culture’s variety of musical genres with the three day long World Creole Music Festival.
Held from 25 to 27 October 2013, the World Creole Music Festival took place in the capital city of Roseau. Over the course of three nights, natives and visitors alike were treated to the rhythm of Creole music from international, regional, and local artists as well as a few up and coming acts.
Headliners for the musical celebration of Creole included Tito Puente Jr., Nu Look, Zouk AllStars, Cadence All Stars, and Machel Montano.
If there is one thing that all Creole cultures have in common, it is an extraordinary ability to whip up the most flavourful cuisine imaginable. Many people mistakenly assume that Creole (and Cajun) cooking is all about heat or spice. In reality however, Creole cooking is about developing a deep flavour palette in each and every dish.
Just south of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles chain of islands lies the nation of Martinique. Each year in October, the island plays host to the International Festival of Creole Cooking. Other Creole celebrations around the globe include cuisine in their festivals, but nowhere else is food the center of attention like it is in Martinique.
Running from the 12th to the 20th of October, the 2013 edition of the festival featured chefs and cuisine from Creole cultures throughout the region including New Orleans, LA, Mexico, Guyana, Guadeloupe, and even France. Each chef brought their own flair to the event, but it was the goal of the event that was more important. The festival seeks to dispel myths about Creole cooking and share the traditions, spices, and flavors that make Creole cuisine truly unique.
The month of October marks the celebration of Creole Heritage in Saint Lucia. The observation is a major cultural event which features the participation of all citizens. The International Creole Day- Jounen Kwéyòl Entonnasyonal was first declared in 1983. 2013 was the 30th anniversary.
There are several activities surrounding the celebration of the Creole Heritage, including La Wenn and Jennes Kwéyòl pageants, Kwéyòl Poetry, storytelling and Creole literacy programmes. During Jounen Kwéyòl, the only language to be spoken is St. Lucian Creole. Due to the strong French influence of colonial years, the language is based on French, yet impacted by English, African, hindu, and even early Amerindian (both Carib and Arawak)
Jounen Kwéyòl is celebrated on Sunday and is a culmination of Creole Heritage Month. During the day selected communities host a fair where the Creole culture is celebrated through dress, music and most of all, food.
In an age when far too many people take themselves too seriously, it is refreshing to see that Creole people from all corners of the globe were able to take time out to celebrate with friends and neighbours all the unique art, music, and food that make the Creole culture so distinct.