But enough with the geography lesson you didn’t ask for. Guadeloupe is as much about culture as I can proudly say I am Creole. Brace yourselves, King Bey isn’t the epitome of Creole identity.
Guadeloupe is creole
Creole is just a generic word to talk about Caribbean culture in general and it’s tightly linked to the European colonisation of the area. It basically comes from an old Spanish word creollo which refers to someone born in the New World.
Creollo itself derives from the old Portuguese word criado, meaning servant. See where I’m going with this?
Long story short, creole just means you come from a complex historical background. For example, Guadeloupe was at first a prized possession the Spanish, the English and the French vividly fought for. Even the Swedes owned the island for a couple of weeks!
The few remaining Natives, African slaves of all horizons, Europeans and later, Indians were forced to coexist and find ways to understand each other. That is why creole is also a spoken language.
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Do you speak creole?
In the Caribbean, each and every island has its own version of what is often mistakenly considered as a patois. In truth, creole is an idiom like any other, born of a mix of different European and African languages and dialects shared across the region. At some point, creole — in one of its variations — was even the first language used to communicate across the Caribbean.
However, as France, Spain or the UK secured their grip on their colonies and with widespread Western education particularly over the 20th century, creole was progressively relegated to what was perceived as a lower-class citizen speak.
Until very recently, we were still taught that using creole was utterly disrespectful! My own grand-mother wouldn’t let me use creole… ever. Which can explain why I suck at it so much, but hey!
We’ve come a long way and made peace with what is now recognised as being a full part of the various Caribbean identities. As a matter of fact, Creole is a language of images and unsuspected poetry.
I’m going real old school with this one, but I cannot talk about creole and not talk about music. Before the world fell for kizomba (which is honestly a mix of zouk and other things), we created Zouk!
Zouk typically speaks about love, the woes of life, heartbreak and so on. Here is a playlist to soothe your soul. You can thank me later.
Quick aparté: Our most famous Zouk band is called Kassav (included in the playlist). Originally, kassav is a creole word for cassava, a quite popular woody shrub we consume a lot. It’s also a traditional sort of wafer made of cassava flour. You can have it with coconut jelly (or any other jelly, really). Yum!
Since the 80s, a whole new generation of artists spread their wings and reclaim creole to conquer the world. Among them, E.sy Kennenga from our sister island, Martinique.
This is it for part 2. More to come for the foodies out there 🤤
📷 Jacques Lebleu (featured image)
Photos are a selection from @ilesguadeloupe.