Souvenirs

 

 

Have you really been somewhere if you don’t have evidence to prove it? Nowadays even pictures can’t be trusted; with professional apps and Photoshop at anyone’s disposal. However what’s the best way to show that you just came from the Seychelles? You got it right! Souvenirs.

Souvenirs are available everywhere in the world however Seychelles takes it to another level because first of all Seychelles is a tourist destination and it is a country trying to promote culture and heritage. The souvenirs in Seychelles ranges from shark tooth to a Coco-de-Mer pillow. Most of the souvenirs are made out of natural resources such as corals, shells, wood and large majority is made out of fish bones or their teeth. These souvenirs are representations of Seychellois using the resources at our disposal and having a ‘give-and-take’ relationship with the ocean.

Where do you get the best souvenirs from Seychelles? There’s no such thing. Because they are all well thought out pieces of art, however some places that are more common; along the Francis Rachel street opposite the stadium or the buildings cable and wireless, chaka bros, or the mosque. The chain of shacks along the street is more than an attraction for a large majority of tourist and they provide one of the largest selections of souvenirs. Moreover, the shacks are painted in light pink, yellow and green colours, and the tone is a clear representation of the Seychelles culture.

In addition, if you are not in Victoria but in the south, don’t worry because one way or another you may find a souvenirs shack specialising in your desired jewellery, hat, t-shirt or any other creative selection.

The currency used in most souvenir shops are Seychelles rupees however there are instances where other currencies are accepted.

Now, I’m guessing you’re thinking about if you want to get a souvenir before you leave but you forgot to buy one around the island, well you’re in lick because whichever way you’re living Mahé, there will be a souvenirs shop nearby; from the airport, jetty to the port for the cruise ship.

You can say you’ve been to Seychelles and you took a piece of it with you!

Pride in Words

Seychelles is not just a country that represents the pearl of the Indian Ocean or the heart of the Indian Ocean. The island and its people make it their mission to make sure that Seychelles always stays true to its identity, there may be outside forces however the people of Seychelles always find a way to stay united and true to their identity. This is not about the language being used or the food that the daily household provides but rather the words in the national song.

Almost everyone knows the pride of singing the national anthem and most will agree that the national anthem is the moment where the nation feels this sense of togetherness and pride to be part of their country.

Sesel ou menm nou sel patri.

Kot nou viv dan larmoni.

Lazwa, lanmour ek lape.

Nou remersye Bondye.

Preserv labote nou pei.

Larises nou losean.

En leritaz byen presye.

Pour boner nou zanfan.

Reste touzour dan linite.

Fer monte nou paviyon.

Ansanm pou tou leternite.

Koste Seselwa!

 

This is the lyrics for the Seychelles national anthem. The title of the anthem is ‘Koste Seselwa’ which translates into the nation being closer ‘Koste- Closer’ and ‘Seselwa-Seychellois’

Seychelles, our only motherland

Where we live in harmony

Happiness, love and peace

We give thanks to God.

Preserve the beauty of our country

The riches of our oceans

A precious heritage

For the happiness of our children.

Live forever in unity

Raise our flag

Together for all eternity

Join together all Seychellois.

 

The above is the English translation of the Seychelles anthem, and from here you can see the value that the Seychellois nation gives the conservation of the islands.

Seychelles, notre seule patrie

Où nous vivons en harmonie

La joie, l’amour et la paix

Nous remercions le Bon Dieu!

Préservons la beauté de notre pays

La richesse de notre océan

Un héritage très précieux

Pour le bonheur de nos enfants

Restons toujours unis

Élevons notre drapeau

Ensemble pour l’éternité

Unissons-nous Seychellois!

The above translation is in French because Seychelles has 3 official language is French, English and Creole.

Flora and Fauna

When you’re on the plane and coming in for a landing on the hot tarmac of Seychelles Airport, the first thing you might notice, besides the ocean is the lush green vegetation, covering a majority of the island like a thick carpet.

The Seychelles Islands are home to over 100 endemic plant species; 75 of them being on the granitic islands and the rest on the outer atolls. The most well known plant species of Seychelles, but not endemic to our islands, is the Coco De Mer; a rather suggestive looking nut, but valuable and beautiful none the less. We have also become a World Heritage Site for the species and have controlled trades and protections in place to ensure their longevity and safety. The main area of these nuts is the Vallee De Mai on Praslin.

The Jellyfish tree however is endemic to Seychelles. What makes this tree so special is that none of its seeds have been able to germinate in the wild, leaving it up to botanists to ensure their survival. Three known populations of this plant are protected by Morne Seychellois National Park in three different locations.

For the fauna part of Seychelles our main endemic species is that of birds. We have around 12 different species that inhabit our islands.

The Seychelles Kestrel is one of my favorite native birds. This bird happens to be one of the only day-flying birds of prey on our islands. Its diet consists of a variety of small animals and insects including lizards and mice. A pair of kestrels will defend a territory they reside in and keep other kestrels away, making it easier for them to hunt and not run out of space and food. Most people, like my grandmother, believe that kestrels are bad omens that bring about bad luck to those it visits. This has yet to be confirmed by me, seeing as kestrels live around my house and seek shelter from the rainy days! If you haven’t caught sight of this gorgeous bird in real life, have no fear! You can see a picture of it on our 500 Rupee bills.

Another fan favorite and endemic bird is the Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher.  The Flycatcher, or Vev in Creole, was once widespread on the island of Praslin and then moved to La Digue where they are quite common. Nearly 30 birds were transported to Denis Island in hopes of bringing their population up to 50, in 2008. The Vev is known to thrive in native trees such as Bodanmyen and Takamaka. Just like its name, this bird consumes insects by catching them in mid air. Its population is said to have gone up to nearly 300.

Animals such as dolphins, and turtles are also on a watch list of sorts, due to the fact that Seychelles culture had made it a possibility to consume these creatures. Dwindling numbers caused the government to place certain restrictions on the poaching of dolphins and turtles and now made them known as ‘Manze Rar’. Other creatures that are not quite endemic but famous in Seychelles, are the Land Tortoise and Fruit Bats.

Festival Kreol

Every year for the past twenty six years, the people of Seychelles come together to pay homage to their culture.

The Festival Kreol is held every end of October and always represents beautiful Creole culture through food, art, music and more.  The week long celebration from the 20th of October to the 30th, is bursting at the seems with fun events. Restaurants also participate with special deals and activities to commemorate this week.

Despite the festival taking place in Seychelles on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the week long celebration recognizes and welcomes all Creole cultures from across the globe.

The itinerary for this years Festival Kreol is as follows

 

A Brief History on Food and Dance

Two main things most people would associate with Seychelles could be argued as food and dance. These two things almost always go hand in hand and are incredibly popular among Seychellois and tourists alike. The traditional music and dance shows the culturally diverse background of our nation’s history.

Seychellois Dance

There happens to be a plethora of different traditional dances that are practiced in Seychelles but I will be writing about my three favorite.

The Moutia is a fan favorite with its percussion and string instruments. It contains foreign influences from when Seychelles had been colonized by the French in the 18th century followed by the British in the 19th. They brought about the guitar and violin which play a large part in Seychelles’ music today.

The Sega dance is the most popular of dance styles; the go to when learning Seychelles’ dances. With its characteristic hip-swaying movements, it is believe that it began with the slave population on the islands of Reunion and Mauritius. Sega music is traditionally performed with hand drums and rattles. while the feet remain planted on the floor in a rhythmic shuffle.

Kanmtole music is always fun to listen to. It bears a resemblance to the French Royal Court’s contredanse as well as Scottish square dancing. Accompanied by an accordion, violin and banjos, the contredanse was a French version of English country dances integrated with steps typical of the French court. Dating from the early 19th century, the kanmtole is a lively blend of all these dance styles.

Other musical styles in Seychelles include hip-hop, country, modern jazz, rock, ballads and choirs performing traditional popular, sacred, ancient and evangelical music. It’s thanks to Seychelles’ diverse past that these music and dance styles have evolved over the centuries to give the nation its rich musical heritage.

Seychellois Cuisine

Fish is definitely a big player in Seychellois cuisine and fishing happens to play a large part in our Blue Economy. Fish can be prepared in several ways, including, but not limited to: steamed, grilled, baked, boiled, fried, salted, smoked and wrapped in banana leaves. However, fish isn’t the only sea dweller that locals enjoy to catch and eat.

Other big ‘fish’ that were consumed in most Seychellois homes back in the day, included dolphin and turtles which were known as manze rar; rare food. These meats have since been forbidden by local authorities and marine parks, but some still risk it for that old Creole feeling. Sharks however, are fair game. One thing Seychellois can pride themselves in is using every part of the animals they consume. For shark you can make soup, salads/chutneys, curries and more with different parts respectively. Shark chutney, a personal favorite, typically consists of boiled, finely mashed skinned shark, and cooked with lime and bilimbi juice. Fried onions and spices are mixed along with it and makes this a perfect side dish or samosa filling.

Another type of meat that is popular in Seychelles is bat meat. Bat curry is something that can be found in authentic creole restaurants who can gain access to these creatures and is a great delicacy. Other curries can be found in almost any crock pot on the island! These curries can vary from salty to spicy, coconut cream enriched to tangy. Rice is also available with any meal.

Growing up, my family would enjoy eating a dish called ‘ladob’. Depending on the ingredients, I always found it to have a strange smell and was never fond of it, whether it was in savory or dessert form. The savory version usually had salted fish along with plantain, cassava or breadfruit with salt and boiled with coconut milk until soft. Its dessert dish omitted the fish (thank goodness!) along with the salt. It could be cooked with plantain, bananas, corossol, sweet potatoes, cassava or breadfruit and was seasoned in coconut milk with sugar, nutmeg and vanilla pods.

A few delicacies and specialty dishes include:

Bouyon bred
Kari bernik
Cassava pudding
Satini reken
Kat-kat banan
Salad palmis
Tec tec soup
Kari sousouri

Find more information on Creole cooking here.

A Brief History Lesson on Folklore

The history of folklore in Seychelles, stems from fantastic storytellers and singers that pass on rich Seychellois culture through fables, proverbs and songs.

Since the first settlers, Seychelles has been responsible for its own history and culture that it puts out. Folklore plays a large part of that. Old sayings, riddles and stories were a way of explanation and entertainment for children and adults alike. Like most educational stories, these had morals to them that would teach children a proper way to live as they grew up.

Apart from theses fables, ghost stories were and still play a large part in Seychelles legends. Tales of superstition and spells were a means of Instilling fear in disobedient children, as most spooky stories do. Despite the fact that not all the tales of ghosts and ghouls might be real, the reactions that they would receive were enough for people to believe in.

Small innocuous superstitions that were told to children, including myself were that whistling in the house was bad luck as well as having your feet swept would make sure you never married. A majority of other superstitions can be found linked to money; if you happened to sweep money, you would lose what you earned or sweeping after 6 would result in sweeping your money away.

Other superstitions include:

– If a cockerel sings during the day, it announces a visitor
– Dropping a fork during dinner announces a male visitor, dropping a spoon announces a female visitor.
– If you eat from the pot, it will rain on your wedding day.
– Do not start a project on a Friday, you will surely fail.
– Do not play with fire, you will wet your bed.
– Do not give someone money through the window or you will be ruined.
– Do not allow a baby to stare into a mirror, he/she will not grow teeth.
– Do not lend your broom to anyone, it will rob you of your luck.
– Do not count stars, you will get warts.
– Pointing at vegetables will stop them from growing
– Staring at a pregnant woman will result in an eye infection
– If you get pimple around your mouth, someone likes you

If one thing is for certain, superstitions can be funny to read about and even make you cautious!

Paint Me A Picture

Art is one of the best ways to express yourself in the world, a way to make your mark and say “Hey world, look at me.”

In Seychelles we are home to a vast majority of artists who continue to grace our nation with gorgeous pieces of work. From sculptors to painters and poets to writers, we have it all.

There are an array of studios found all over Mahé which are open to the public to view. There you can catch a glimpse of the artists mind and see what they brought to fruition through pure determination.

Sculptors in Seychelles can almost be evenly divided in half by topic; sculptures of women and figures can claim some where others decide to reclaim waste and turn it into art instead.

Painting on canvas however usually always has the same theme. The beautiful landscape of Seychelles can always be depicted with broad brushstrokes and bright colors. When the lush nature isn’t being captured, the people of Seychelles are seen in various day to day poses that enrapture the realness of Seychellois culture.

Art has proven to be a great way for people to express themselves and be seen or heard. Chatterbox has begun hosting an open mic night known as “Word Up” where people of all ages can speak their minds through slam poetry or smaller poems. Based on certain topics, these stories can shed light on what people are feeling at the time about the subject and open people up to new opinions and views.

This is the power of art; it connects people through various mediums and topics and either starts a conversation or continues it. It’s supposed to make you wonder and ask questions and evoke emotions that you might not have been aware were there.

The artists of Seychelles also wish to do this with their work and so far seem to be succeeding in such.

Find a list of galleries and information, here.

Read All About It

Extra! Extra! Find out all about the beautiful Seychelles archipelago through a myriad of books; from art to local stories to scientific finds in bookstores in Victoria.

There is no friend as loyal as a book, said Ernest Hemingway and he is definitely not wrong. Books give a deeper insight into a topic that helps you to understand it better. On Mahé you can find novels and art that give you that edge. William McAteer has written a series of novels based on the rich and interesting history of Seychelles, starting with the first bout of settlers and the slaves they brought with them. His books bring about a new found knowledge in how the Seychellois culture was cultivated and made unique to its islands.
Find books by McAteer here for purchase online or at the Chanterelle and Antigone bookshops in Victoria.

Books that focus on art are also a big deal in Seychelles. Besides descriptive words, pictures play a powerful part in our lives. A famous artist on Mahé by the name of Michael Adams is responsible for a gorgeous book based on sketches of Seychellois’ he had been drawing since he arrived in Seychelles in 1972. ‘Island Souls‘ is a beautiful representation of Adams’ initial thoughts and views of the island when he first arrived and can be found at Chanterelle for purchase.

If you are more invested in the flora and fauna of the islands then perhaps a guidebook or scientific finds is what you need. There is a large accumulation of these types at the bookstores and even more at the one located at the airport.

Seychelles books are a great addition to your holiday and even your coffee table where they can be a proper conversation starter. One of the things we pride ourselves on as a nation is our beauty and culture and it is our honor to share them with everyone.

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
― Ernest Hemingway

 

Full Stomach

The staples of any Seychellois dinner can be from grilled fish and spinach, to spicy curries and lentils.

Grilled fish may not be unique to the Seychelles Islands but its flavoring and preparation just might be. Here on the islands, tourists can find grilled fish in almost every restaurant or evening bazar. They can see it being prepared in banana leaves on an open fire or on a small grill. To top off this delicious meal is a mixture of tomatoes and onions and even the occasional bilimbi.

If you don’t like your fish grilled then you can have it stewed with some “bouyon bred”; a spinach dish that is definitely a fan favorite in creole homes.

Curry is the way to go when you want to spice things up; my personal favorite is a hot beef curry. Armed with some local spices and a strong masala, you can make this tasty meal. On special occasions you can find bat curry (kari sousouri) heating up in the pot. It may sound unappealing but it is definitely a cultural meal to most locals. Curry can be made with a variety of different meat ranging from fish to lamb to pork, chicken or octopus. When it comes to this dinner, anything is possible as long as you have the right ingredients.

One of my favorite dishes growing up, when I barely reached my mother’s hip, was Rougay Sosis. A simple yet savory dish made with local sausage and tomatoes served over rice. The perfect addition to any meal, though, has to be a chutney (satini) or a salad. Each dish has a specific accompaniment that goes better with it. For example the Rougay Sosis could be paired up with a pumpkin chutney whereas a beef curry goes well with a cucumber salad. But this could be different for everyone!

Lentils are a must have for most meals. They go perfect with almost everything thing. Add some local sausage or pork cracklings for an extra flavor. Pour it on top of some safran rice and fill up your stomach with pure yummy-ness.

But for the true Seychellois food experience, one must always try the chili. There are different versions of the “piman” from blended with onions to chopped in oil, but the result is almost the same. The spiciness brings out the flavor of the entire dish and makes it even more heavenly. But don’t take it from me! Try it out at a variety of restaurants, hotels and bars that our beautiful islands have to offer!

Check out a full list of restaurants and bars here and more info on the local market here.