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Where do I fit in as a Seychellois Creole/ Kreol?

Written by on 14 July 2020

Black, white, mixed or creole? Where do I fit in as a Seychellois Creole?

Identity is so important to many of us living abroad. When you grow up in a country that is not
your own, you always feel a sense of yearning for your ‘home’ country and it can take a while for
young people to figure out who they really are. My family moved to the UK again when I was
nine years old. I had lived in Seychelles for seven years and called it home although I had been
born in the UK.

When I arrived back in the UK 7 years later, I didn’t feel so out of place as I had plenty of family
there too. The only place that felt a bit strange was at school. I had to speak in English all the
time, I knew I had an accent and I knew that I wasn’t considered British.
These days when people ask me where I’m from, my response changes depending on where I
am in the world. Here in the UAE, I am British first and Seychellois second. In the UK, I am just
from Seychelles. I hardly refer to myself as British when I am in the UK.

Now let’s talk about the term ‘Creole’ or kreol in Seychellois creole. This word, mostly used as a
noun and sometimes used as an adjective, is so nuanced and again the meaning changes
depending on where you are and who you’re talking to. It’s all about context.

So what does this word mean to me?

Creole describes my ethnic identity in the best way possible. There is something very distinctive
about Seychellois Creole culture and identity and the term Creole encapsulates that perfectly for
me. Is Creole a race? No, not to me, although I know that this is not the case for every Creole
person around the globe. In Seychelles, every Seychellois is a Creole ‘irrespective of colour,
race, ancestry or social position’ (Penda Choppy, 2018). Creole also highlights the slave
ancestry of Seychellois people although this aspect of Creoleness is sometimes ignored as the
term Creole has been romanticised in society.

I didn’t start thinking about my racial identity until I was in secondary school in the UK. It was
there that people seemed to be interested in finding out what ‘colour’ I was. The first time I
heard this question, I replied with something like ‘well I’m brown’. Friends then started saying
that I was ‘brown like a cup of tea’. When I started to apply for jobs or needed to fill out a form to
disclose my ethnicity, I started to think about my race/ ethnicity even more. Most of the time I
would tick the option ‘Any other mixed background’ as that was the option that I felt described
me most accurately (although not accurate at all). I find it interesting that I didn’t consider ticking
‘Any other African background’ even though Seychelles is an African Island Nation in the Indian
Ocean. Other times, I would tick ‘Other’ and write ‘Seychellois’ if there was a space provided to
specify my ethnic identity even more. This dissociation with Africa is very common in Creole
communities and perhaps I had internalised this as a young person and may explain why I didn’t
think to tick the correct option.

Now, being a little bit older and wiser, I would most definitely tick the option ‘Any other African
background’ as that is the best fit for Seychellois Creoles is in my view. Seychellois Creole is an
African ethnic group. Seychellois Creoles can be black, white, asian or mixed. What we need to
remember is that race is a social construct that was invented to divide people into specific
groups. When the idea of race was invented by white colonialists, the intention was to keep the
white race at the top and to ensure that black people stayed at the bottom and remained divided
from other groups. This is why it’s so difficult to define your race if you do not fall exactly into the
predetermined and prescribed black, white, asian or native categories. In Seychelles, all
Seychellois take pride in their Creole identity and it is not questioned. It is only when you leave
Seychelles that this identity is sometimes called into question and needs explaining.

I would be interested to hear about how other Seychellois living outside of Seychelles describe
their racial orethnic identity. I also wonder whether this is even something that Seychellois living
in Seychelles even think about. Let me know in the comments how you identify. Which box
would you tick?

I have copied the list of suggested ethnic groups by below. This is the list you may be
familiar with when asked to indicate your ethnicity in the UK.
● English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British
● Irish
● Gypsy or Irish Traveller
● Any other White background
Mixed / Multiple ethnic groups
● White and Black Caribbean
● White and Black African
● White and Asian
● Any other Mixed / Multiple ethnic background
Asian / Asian British
● Indian
● Pakistani
● Bangladeshi
● Chinese
● Any other Asian background
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British
● African
● Caribbean
● Any other Black / African / Caribbean background
Other ethnic group
● Arab
● Any other ethnic group
Other sources:
Penda Choppy, « The pepper in the pot: The uneasy relationship between Creoleness and
Blackness », Études Créoles – Vol. XXXVI n°1 & 2 – 2018 [En ligne], consulté le …, URL :éoles/choppy.pdf

Contributor :  Lisa-Marie Volcere –

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