Le Morne Brabant – just before sunset. Photo; Bernard Li Kwong Ken
Ile de France late 18:th century
“You´re going to have a really special treat. You´ll get to dance. Our dance, my peoples dance, the sega.”
Seventy – five persons stood assembled before the temple, when Sans Souci arrived with his captive. The temple was a half – formed grotto with a wide clearing before it, about 200 meters up the mountain. It was where Sans Souci stood when he addressed the inhabitants of the Republic of Maroons on the mountain Le Morne. Word of the prisoner´s identity had spread quickly. With the long rope they bound the slaver tight to the pole. For torches lit the inner sanctum. The slaver stood there completely limp. His breathing heavy and laboured. Sans Souci walked around him and saw he was staring at the torches. Sans Souci shook his head gently and positioned himself directly before the captive.
“I think I can read your thoughts. You´re expecting us to use the same tortures on you that you and your colleagues have always employed on us. But the pole is far too valuable for us to burn it along with you. As a guest of honour, you can choose – whether you want to dance around the pole or you prefer to roll your hips to the music.”
They heard the sound of five ravane´s, the beats low at first but then accelerating more and more. The slaver opted to jump around within the circle as the others stood in a ring and wriggled their hips. Someone slashed his back with a whip, five swift lashes. He fell to the ground. Sans Souci emptied a bucket of water over him. They dragged him back to the pole.
“Read!” Sans Souci commanded him. “You´re going to spell out the word carved into the pole. It´s important for everyone to hear it.” Sans Souci fixed his gaze on the man. The slavers molasses-coloured eyes rolled in his head. It was like staring the devil himself in the face. “Of course, you want to have a little water. And you´ll get some. It´ll improve your voice.”
The slaver´s hands shook as he took the pot of water. He cleared his throat and began to spell out the letters. “F-R-A-T-E-R-N-I-T-É”
“Exactly. Brotherhood, something we are really proud of, obviously. Nou ban frer!”
This was an excerpt from And the Rainbow touched Mauritius. Le Morne and its importance is the main thread and runs all through the story from the 18:th century until present days.
They lived on the slopes of the mountain Le Morne Brabant. It was the home of the runaways. Each of them had a face and a name, his own story to tell, each one with his own past and future. Bur they were reduced to the simple epithet of SLAVE – and they danced the sega, a dance born in the African soul and danced to the accompaniment of the ravane, and nothing else.
Marie Dil describes the sega and its instruments from the real roots. It is a great honour for me to have Marie as my guest. You are most welcome!
It is my great honor to be the guest of the month.
A big THANK YOU to you Annika.
Born in Mauritius Port Louis, I grew up and spent my childhood in Grand River North West, the family home is near the bridge of the GRNW.
I spent the first day after my birth in the school of the Great River along with my parents to avoid the cyclone Carole.
The mouth of the Grand River North West in 1860 with the Tour Koenig and the colonial houses.
This painting is found at Eureka, La Maison Creole in Moka.
What great childhood memories I have from the way to school, on the old bridge over the Grand River, we danced and danced.
My father has been a fishermen since the age of 12, several time winner of the great races of the past, my father is known to be the most elegant of the island´s fishermen, and my mother, she was a seamstress.
For more than fifteen years in the field of art, I specialized in the research of historical memories of the islands, with a particular focus on my Mauritius.
Over time I have developed relationships in this environment with a large number of professionals, experts, home sales which today allows me to satisfy my clients from private collectors, museums, businesses, brokers with objects of art, wheather buying one or more works, the creation of a collection or development of existing collection acquire both an object q’inclure the most beautiful pieces in all cataloged sales in Europé or elsewhere.
The SEGA by Marie DILIGENT (Marie DIL)
There is no good party without a sega
Sega is music of exiles. Slaves would get together at night after a long days work and tell stories.
The Sega of the Indian Ocean islands, is a musical style and a dance that emanates from the pain and sufferings and the savage colours and inhumanity of the days of slavery. It however, also bears a message of hope and faith in an eventual emancipation from that condition.
The Sega came with the slaves captured on the east coast of Mozambique (Angola, today). It was hen known under different appellations: Chega, Tsega, Chaga. Sega, in Swahili refers to the act of tucking up one’s skirt…typical gesture of sega dancers. The dance is close to the Fandango.
During the period of slavery that lasted over half a century, the Sega was performed in the quarters of the Mozambicans, Yanbanes, Zanbez and Madagascar slaves.
This traditional music of Mauritius, now espoused by all ethnic groups, has grown up into the major musical platform of Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, Agalega, St Brandon,Chagos, Rodrigues, as well as other islands in the Indian Ocean. With some adaptations of course, like the Sega/Maloya of Reunion which favours a gentle swaying of the hips whilst the Sega Tambour (Drum Sega) of Rodrigues is faster in tempo and typically African. Still in Rodrigues, the Sega Kordion is accompanied by a diatonic accordion with an accordion band touch. In the Seychelles, the Sega is slower, more languorous.
Traditional sega instruments
At the start, the RAVANNE was the main instrument used. It is still made to this day of a goat’s skin stretched over a circular wooden frame and nailed at the circumference. To obtain the best out of the instrument, it must be warmed close to an open wood fire to relax the skin and produce that particular resonance which is obtained by hitting it with the fingers and palm of the hands around its middle. For sharper sounds, the edge of the circle needs to be addressed. Alternating both hands, produce the rhythm that punctuates the dancers’ movements.
The original Sega, or Sega Tipik as it is known, focalises upon a sharp swaying of the hips at varying speeds that sends the short skirts in a spin around the lady’s posterior and her shapely calves, at the end of which the feet drag and shuffle on the ground. The female lift their skirts in seductive moves bending over the male who has knelt down and bent back his chest, posterior resting on the calves but swaying all the time. The movements grow more provocative with the rising tempo but the real art is to be able to simulate lovemaking whilst moving as close as possible…without touching. The rhythm sometimes gets so frenzied that the protagonists end up in a trance, totally exhausted and washed out in perspiration.
The BOBRE of Mauritius
Artist: Guillaume Sulpice Chevalier, called Paul Gavarni
Then came the BOBRE. This rudimentary musical arc – whose sound box is a dried calabash – is made out of a hard but supple piece of wood stretched by a piece of string or wire and hit by a bamboo rod. The hand holding the rod also grabs a purse half full with dried seeds used as a rattle. The Bobre is well known in Brazil where it is called the Bérimbau. The Berimbau has survived thanks to its association with the Caporeira, this martial art form that has its roots in the fighting methods and the dance forms of African people in the times of slavery. In order to practice without fear of intervention by the masters, this training was given under the form of a primitive dance. It originates in Mozambique (Angola, today).
The MARAVANNE which consists simply of a wooden box filled with dried seeds, which is shaken horizontally to produce a rattling sound.
Paul & Virgine by Bernadin de Saint – Pierre.
Along the way, other instruments came to the fore. The TRIANGLE, is made of an iron rod shaped like an equilateral triangle but with one end still opened. The instrument is held at its apex by a piece of rope in one hand whilst the other uses a short iron rod to hit it, producing a high-pitched sound.
The three main instruments of the traditional sega are the Ravanne, the Maravanne and the Triangle.
The Sega dance
The rules of sega dancing are quite specific. The dancers take short lateral steps with a suggestive swaying of the hips. They dance in couples, the man facing the woman. Sometimes, he turns around her or moves off seeming to have lost her, only to come close together again, brushing against one another without ever touching. Sometimes another man moves in between the dancer and his partner: this is called « cutting ». The woman goes on to dance with him until it is her turn to be cut. The couple periodically crouch down before each other with a constant « shimmy of the pelvis »: their bust meet and they lean over onto each other, taking it in turn to dip over backwards, until they touch the ground only to come back up to lean over their partner. This step, called « en bas en bas » ( down low), symbolises the sexual act. An act sublimated and transcended since the bodies never actually touch. Musicians and dancers communicate all the time, intense excitement being highlighted by the rhythm, onomatopoeia and short, snappy interjections ( alaila, mo vini, bouze to le reins, en bas et toi, bouze….. move it, get down there, go for it, your turn….)
The TAM-TAM of Mauritius
Artist: Guillaume Sulpice Chevalier, called Paul Gavarni, French, 1804 – 1866
Bernadin de Saint Pierre confused the Bobre and the Tam Tam, he wrote in 1768. ”They passionately love music and dance. Their instruments is the drum, which is a kind of arc which is adapted a gourd, they derive a kind of sweet harmony and they accompany the songs they cmposed. Love is always about…”The writer spoke about the Bobre.
A few hints for dancing the sega
The man usually stands in the dancing area with hands on the hips waiting for the girl to shuffle towards him, wiggling, hip-balancing and waving a colourful handkerchief invitingly. Then the partners face each other with a waist-and-shoulder grasp and … the improvisation starts.
(i) Just let yourself go — as long as you do not step on your partner’s feet!
(ii) When you hear « En Bas! En Bas! » (Down, Down) bend your knees and lower your body gently downwards while swaying your hips to the rhythm.
(iii) We do not advise the women to wear mini-skirts. A colourful full- length patterned skirt and blouse is preferable.
(iv) Men are free in their choice of costumes. Open-neck or bushshirt will do, but formal wear can be a handicap.
Naturel de la côte du Mozambique.
Muséum d’histoire naturelle. Le Havre.
Who needs to write a book? My face tells the story…
Loss of identity
From the territory of Yao, the man had been accomplished a particulary harrowing journey of a thousand miles on foot before transporting by sea to the Ile-de-France, during which many captives died exhausted.
Ultimately this designation of ”Masambique” amounts to a step of creolization: the man has in the pulpit of his face and his body the marks of the past Yao, he is identified for this date in consolidation wave ”Mazambique” and if he survives, his future will be that of Mauritian Creole.
Nevers faience, 1785, polychrome bowl large fire scalloped edge.
The decor says « à la terrasse » consists of four scenes of the work related to the production of sugar cane plantation in the West Indies.
Top left: slaves in the cane fields
By Marcel Lindsay Noë
The last slaves died at Le Morne - a mountain situated by the seaside in the south of the island – by throwing themselves off the top of the mountain, preferring death to a life of misery. The sad thing is that the policemen they saw coming were not there to arrest them but to tell them that…slavery had been abolished …and they were free!
Le Morne is now part of the UNESCO Slave Trail and also a World Heritage site.
Le Morne Heritage Trust Fund is the organisation that manages the site and archaeological digs are on-going. A live Slave Village, re-enacting life in those horrible times, is being built. It will have staff in period costumes cooking, sewing, embroidering, planting…a live museo-graphic project that will be a tourist attraction and provide much needed work in that impoverished area.
Visit Le Morne Trust Fund´s website and get more information: www.lemorne.org ( page under construction)
Walk in the footsteps of Sans Souci with Yan de Maroussem as companion , and feel how the history strikes you.
Yanature guides two diffrent and exclusive treeking trips on Le Morne Brabant:
- The Circular Mountain Trail
- The Maroon Treeking Trail
The Circular Mountain Trail shows a perfect view of the entire mountain from one side to the other. This hike is suited for any person capable of walking for two hours.
The Maroon Treeking Trail goes up to 500 meters, next to the gap where the maroons crossed over to reach the safer and more unreachable mountain side. This trip is 3 hours and requires a good physical condition.
For reservation contact Yan; email; firstname.lastname@example.org web; www.yanature.com
Mobile; +230 5785 6177
Photo; Bernard Li Kwong Ken
The closer I get to Le Morne the harder my heart beats, the mountain – its history – the slaves at last being recognized as human beings. Yes, it´s something magnificent that strikes me, touching the very core of me, nothing that I have the power to alter, its just there, a confortable feeling that has come to rest and is here to stay. Bernard Li Kwong Ken´s photos from Maconde are beyond compare. This is only the beginning of the splendid nature that awaits us, in but a few kilometres we will reach Le Morne, the several kilometres long sandy beach by the azure-blue ocean and the silhouette – the mountain Le Morne Brabant.
This is my Mauritius as its very best. Hopefully we´ll met at the mountain and can share the experience.
With love from Annika