Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles

From Francophone “Establishment” to the Creole Capital of Seychelles

"If you can"
Reflection of Victoria's life in a city van.
Victoria Cathedral
Students walk at the base of Victoria Cathedral.
Golden Boy Marcus
Marcus Hollanda, in a semi-golden style of dress.
Jivan Imports
Resident walks in front of Jivan Imports store.
Victoria saleswomen next to the children's clothing store.
Way to Victoria Market
Sign indicates Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke market.
Capital Life
Passersby wait for a green light in historic downtown Victoria.
Rastafarian Fruit
Seller dressed in Jamaican fashion at Selwyn Selwyn Clarke Market
Silver Clock Tower
Silver replica of the existing Clock Tower at Vauxhall, London.
egg seller
Customers stock up on eggs from a street vendor.
Islamic seller takes care of a stall of spices and other Seychellois specialties.
Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinaygar Temple
Gopuram tower of the largest Hindu temple in the capital of Seychelles.
Priests & Go Pro
Hindu priests examine an action camera.
Hindu Deities
Detail of the gopuram of the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinaygar Temple temple.
Offering Board
Flame of faith on a board of the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinaygar temple.
The French populated their “Etablissement” with European, African and Indian settlers. Two centuries later, British rivals took over the archipelago and renamed the city in honor of their Queen Victoria. When we visit it, the Seychelles capital remains as multiethnic as it is tiny.

The fact that it is one of the smallest capitals in the world is often underlined.

If so, it should only surprise anyone who does not know that, even spread across 115 islands of the western Indian Ocean, the Seychelles is the smallest country in Africa.

Still, in its 20km2, Victoria is home to upwards of twenty thousand inhabitants, a third of the nation's population. It's enough to see you fall victim to one or another bottling sample. We see the first example around the local Clock Tower, a gleaming silver replica of the one that dictates time over London's Vauxhall Bridge.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles islands, Mahé, Clock TowerDeciding to photograph the centuries-old monument, we crossed Independence Avenue. About. One time. Other. And another one. We abused and stopped on the middle of the asphalt, among drivers eager to get out of there, albeit without the almost angry eagerness of other parts.

For some time, the signalman on duty tolerates the crossings he considers to be extemporaneous. Moments later, fed up with seeing us spoiling his work, he leaves the post, decomposes us and warns us that if we repeat the shuttles again, he will fine us.

We submit to authority. We installed ourselves on one side of the avenue. We admire the ethnic and religious diversity of pedestrians, for some reason, especially women, plump, with assorted and uncompromising clothes that reveal different golden skins.

And, clumsily, a young mother who almost drags her daughter, outraged by our photographic approach.

The girl's indisposition, in keeping with her mother's elegant, much more reserved Muslim look, molded into a long hijab, partially covered by a pale red blouse.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles islands, Mahé, Clock Tower, passerbySir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke and the Market Economy of Victoria

We continued to wander. We walk to Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market, the city's central market, named after the military doctor and colonial governor of the Seychelles from 1947 to 1951.

At that hour, we found him in great hustle.

Those who don't have a place inside work next to the railing, as does Jeffe, an egg trader who sells them to boxes from the box of his truck.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles Islands, Mahé, egg seller

We give market entry. We confirm the coexistence of the expected areas. Fruit, fish, drinks, spices and other regional products. In each of them, once again, an ethnic assortment of vendors.

Christopher, a fruit seller, is distinguished by his Rastafarian fashion, the pointed beard and the red, green and yellow tones of the striped bonnet, the strap t-shirt and the necklace around the neck.

Nearby, Bah Dalanda, with origins in Guinea Conakry, treat us with sympathy and open-mindedness for the portraits we ask of you.

Not that it was necessary, but in exchange we bought a kilo of their grapes. Already in the fishmonger, with a shy smile, Marcel Santache tries to foist us a scarlet grouper.

Admiral Vasco da Gama's Ignored Islands and Navigators That Followed

South of the Seychelles, the Reunion Island it bears the name that best reflects the meeting of peoples in the Indian Ocean. The Seychelles and Victoria in particular are not far behind.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles islands, Mahé, fruit seller

In 1502, during the second expedition to India, Vasco de Gama passed through the archipelago. He named it the Admiral Islands.

Despite the honor (their own honor), neither the navigator nor the Portuguese Crown considered them a priority.

Throughout the XNUMXth century, they remained unclaimed for the European colonial powers that already disputed the world.

In 1609, a disoriented English ship docked for a few days on the North Island. Once again, the Admirals continued to complain. Only Indian pirates considered them theirs and from there attacked the wealthy European ships that traveled between Africa and Asia.

In the middle of the XNUMXth century, the French, who had already colonized the neighbors Mauritius (then Île de France), landed on the island that navigator Lazare Picault called Île de L'Abundance (now Mahe). From that base, they explored the surrounding archipelago.

Shortly thereafter, the Admirals finally complained. As a tribute to the Minister of Finance of Louis XV, Jean Moreau de Séchelles, they were called Séchelles.

Finally, the Pioneer Seychelles Settlement Attempt

In 1770, Brayer du Barré, an entrepreneur validated by the French Crown, set sail from the Île de France at the head of a retinue of fifteen white settlers, seven African slaves, five Indians, and a black woman.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles islands, Mahé, Capital LifeBarré left the settlers on the island of St. Anne, opposite the present city of Victoria, in charge of consolidating the settlement and returned to the Île de France with the mission of obtaining more funds.

In vain. In the meantime, the island's authorities had concluded that it would be impossible to supply the new colony with the necessary regularity or obtain provisions from it.

Barré returned to St. Anne. In desperation, he tried to resolve the Crown's blockade. Frustrated, he decided to abandon the project. He left for India, where, shortly thereafter, he died.

The people who landed in St. Anne, these, were left for two years to their fate.

In 1772, a part had left the island. Another had moved to the coast opposite St. Anne, to the northeast coast of the largest of the Seychelles islands, Mahe.

Etablissement  Repopulated with Slaves from Mauritius

Informed that, despite the abandonment, the colony survived, emerging colonialists took up Brayer du Barré's project. They arrived with ships laden with Creole slaves from the Île de France and consolidated what they would come to call the Etablissement.

The newly arrived slaves became the genesis of the present almost one hundred thousand Seychellois, gradually anglicized from 1798, when the English took over the almost defenseless archipelago.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles Islands, Mahé,

Today, more than 90% of the population of Seychelles remains Creole or creole.

Even if the natives abhor the term they consider pejorative and do everything to make them consider them only and only Seychellois (Seychellois). The rest are British, French, Chinese and Indian migrants.

Instead of Seychelles or Séchelles, the natives call their nation Sesel.

Since 1976, Citizens of the vast Commonwealth of nations but independent, they express themselves in the dialect seselwa, a prolific mix of French, English, Swahili, Indian and even Malagasy.

Even aware of the colonial hardships suffered by their ancestors, they have an untouchable esteem for their tropical and paradisiacal nation.

The Francophone Anthem of the Band “Dezil”

That's how we felt when, a few years ago, we were dazzled by an almost artisanal and unpretentious video clip on the French music channel MCM. It was “Sans Ou (La Riviere)” by the band, at the time, little more than a teenager, Dezil, who is like saying “from the islands”.

The theme, which has a French refrain, sung with a thick accent kreol

“One minute je suis à la rivière
Une heure et je pleure la mer
Un jour sans toi baby c'est trop beaucoup
Je will pleurer un ocean
Toi que j'aime infiniment "

it can apply both to any flirtation and to the relationship of the Seychelles with your homeland. Oddly enough, the heart of the Seychelles is in the tiny and peculiar capital that the British were quick to rename Victoria.

We stayed there, wandering its streets and alleys, discovering a little of everything, places and characters, some of which were unlikely.

Through the streets and alleys of Diminuta Victoria

In the vicinity of the garish colonial building, almost made of Lego, which houses the Jivan Imports business, we come across a native taken from some cartoon: Marcus Hollanda long ago, with his leg bent back, against a wall crowned by a Refreshing hedge.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles islands, Mahé, golden

It has one of the smoothest black skins we've found in Victoria.

His complexion highlights the gold of the cap and the yellow of the polo that he wears to match, with a thick Argentine thread hanging from his neck.

At first intimidated by our sudden interest, Marcus quickly assimilates the reasons we explain to him. Poses proud, haughty to match. For some reason, we still call him Golden Boy.

Temples Serving the Faiths of the Seychelles Capital

Also nearby, Victoria Cathedral fulfills its functions of Christian evangelization, reinforced by an Anglican ally. Despite their imposing architecture, both temples lack the tropical and Indian exoticism we were looking for.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles Islands, Mahé, Victoria Cathedral

We walked, from one end to the other, to the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinaygar Hindu temple, the unavoidable and unmistakable place of worship for the Hindu inhabitants of Victoria and the surrounding area of ​​Mahé.

Built in Dravidian style, its ornate tower (gopuram) groups dozens of figures of deities in a bright communion, above the faithful in sari and other typical costumes of the Subcontinent.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles Islands, Mahe, Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinaygar Temple

We took off our shoes. We entered.

We examined the distinct details of faith inside, under the gaze of two priests clad in orange dhotis with bare trunks, one with his chest, arms, and forehead adorned with a white-streaked sacred painting.

Welcome us. They invite us to sit down to talk and examine some of the equipment we were carrying. Ten minutes later, armed with a small action camera that we lent them, they rehearse rounded selfies.

They discuss the benefits and artifices of the device.

Victoria, capital, Seychelles Islands, Mahe, Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinaygar Temple, priests

When we return to them, still on the fringes of any expected spirituality, they ask us technical questions that we have fun clarifying.

We took pictures together.

Again, as it had been for days, in the multi-ethnic coziness of Victoria and the Seychelles.

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Monumental Tropical Granite

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