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Seychellois

Seychellois

PRONUNCIATION: say-shel-WAH

LOCATION: Seychelles Islands

POPULATION: About 72,000

LANGUAGE: Creole, English, and French (official languages); Gurijati; Chinese; other European and Oriental languages

RELIGION: Christianity (Roman Catholicism)

1 INTRODUCTION

The Seychelles Islands were a French possession until 1814. They were then under British rule until they gained their independence in 1976. The Seychellois are of African, European, Indian, and Chinese ancestry. The majority have black ancestors who arrived from Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Over time, the different ethnic groups have intermarried. Thus, there is a great degree of racial diversity among the Seychellois.

2 LOCATION

The Republic of Seychelles is one of the world's smallest nations in size and population. It is located in the Indian Ocean, east of Tanzania. It has a total land area of only 171 square miles (444 square kilometers), about two-and-a-half times the size of Washington, D.C. The population of Seychelles is only 72,113 people (1994 estimate). The exact number of islands is unknown but has been estimated at 115. Hills up to 3,084 feet high (940 meters) characterize the granite islands. There are also coral islands and reefs.

Mahé, the main island, is home to about 90 percent of all Seychellois. It contains the capital and only city, Victoria, and the only port.

3 LANGUAGE

Seychellois have three official languages: Creole, English, and French. Creole developed from the French dialects of the original settlers. Its vocabulary is mostly French, with a few Malagasy, Bantu, English, and Hindi words.

Most Seychellois can speak and understand French. Most younger Seychellois read English, the language of government and commerce. French is the language of the Roman Catholic Church in the Seychelles Islands.

The following is a Seychellois proverb in the Creole language: Sak vid pa kapab debout (meaning "One doesn't work on an empty stomach"). Its literal translation is "an empty bag will not stand up on its own."

4 FOLKLORE

Accomplished storytellers and singers pass on Seychellois culture and social customs through fables, songs, and proverbs.

Storytelling is at the center of the traditional moutia performance. The moutia began during the days of slavery. Two men told stories about the hard labors of the day. Women then joined in to dance, accompanied by singing and chanting. Modern performances still involve dancing to typical African rhythms. Performers often use satire to entertain and teach people of all ages.

5 RELIGION

Almost all the inhabitants of Seychelles are Christian. More than 90 percent are Roman Catholic. Sunday masses are well attended. Religious holidays are celebrated as religious and social events.

Like other Africans, many Seychellois Christians still follow tradional religious practices. These may include magic, witchcraft, and sorcery. It is common to consult a local fortune-teller known as a bonhomme de bois or a bonne femme de bois. Charms known as gris-gris are used to harm one's enemies.

6 MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Seychellois have ten public holidays: New Year's Day, January 12; Good Friday and Easter Sunday, in March or April; the Fête Dieu (Corpus Christi), in May or June; Assumption Day, August 15; All Saints' Day, November 1; the Day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8; Christmas Day, December 25; and the Queen's official birthday.

Families often take advantage of public holidays to picnic at the beach and swim. They may also attend a traditional dance and storytelling performance called a moutia.

7 RITES OF PASSAGE.

Weddings and funerals are occasions for lavish spending. A family might spend half a year's income on a child's wedding. Sometimes both the bride's and the groom's families pay for the event.

On Mahé, the most elaborate Catholic funerals include three rounds of bell ringing. There is also singing, organ music, and a sermon. The loud tolling makes the death known to everyone. Less expensive funerals involve a more modest ceremony with less bell ringing. At the simplest funeral, a single bell is rung eleven times.

8 RELATIONSHIPS

Skin color figures importantly in social relationships and career opportunities. Designations for whites include the Grand Blanc (a white person with property or a good job); the Blanc Coco, or "white chocolate" ( a working-class white who works for a grand blanc); and the Blanc Rouille, or "rusted white" (an uneducated plantation owner who needs an educated black person to do the accounting). Landless poor people, mostly of African origin, are at the bottom of the social ladder. They are called Rouge (red) or Noir (black), depending on the darkness of their skin.

It is said, jokingly, that after giving birth, a Seychellois mother asks first what color her child is, and second whether it is a boy or girl.

Western-style dating is fairly common in the capital city, Victoria, but in the outer islands traditional forms of recreation usually bring couples together with other young people.

9 LIVING CONDITIONS

Traditional houses rise on stilts above the ground. The main room is used for eating and sleeping. The kitchen is separate to maintain cleanliness. Woven coconut leaves make naturally cool walls and roofs. However, galvanized iron is gradually replacing them for roofing.

10 FAMILY LIFE

Mothers are dominant in the household. They control most daily expenses and look after the children. Family size is relatively small by African standards.

Sexual relationships without formal marriage are common among the Seychellois. Most family units take the form of informal unions known as living en ménage (by household). Nearly three-fourths of all children born in the islands are born out of wedlock. However, many are legally acknowledged by their fathers. The Church and civil authorities disapprove of unmarried couples living together. However, such unions are usually stable and carry little social shame for either partner or for their children.

Women enjoy the same legal, political, economic, and social rights as men.

11 CLOTHING

Generally, the Seychellois wear modern, Western-style clothing. Women go to market in cotton smocks and sandals. They wear locally made straw hats for sun protection. They may also wear African sarongs. Men wear hats, also, and loose-fitting, short-sleeved shirts and trousers. For casual dress, both men and women wear shorts. Some uniformed public servants, such as traffic police, also wear shorts.

12 FOOD

The Seychellois Creole cuisine combines a wide variety of cooking styles, including English, French, Chinese, and Indian. Creole cooking is rich, hot, and spicy. It blends fruit, fish, fresh vegetables, and spices. Basic ingredients include pork, chicken, fish, octopus, and shellfish. Coconut milk makes a good sauce for seafood meals. Fish is served in many ways: grilled on firewood, curried, in boullions or soups, and as steak. Turtle meat is called "Seychelles beef." People also enjoy salads and fruit desserts of mango, papaya, breadfruit, and pineapple.

Locally made alcoholic beverages include palm wine (calou). Bacca is a powerful sugarcane liquor drunk on ceremonial occasions.

13 EDUCATION

Since 1981, a system of free education has been in effect, requiring attendance by all children in grades one to nine, beginning at age five. Students complete six years of primary school and three years of secondary school. Those who wish to continue their education attend a National Youth Service (NYS) program. In addition to academic instruction, the students receive practical training in gardening, cooking, housekeeping, and livestock-raising. They produce much of their own food, cook their own meals, and do their own laundry.

Students may attend Seychelles Polytechnic, a technical trade school. They may also study abroad through British, U.S., and French scholarship programs.

14 CULTURAL HERITAGE

African, European, and Asian influences are present in Seychellois music, dance, literature, and visual art. African rhythms are apparent in the moutia and séga dances. The sokoué dance resembles masked African dancing. Dancers portray birds, animals, and trees. The contredanse is a French import, with origins in the court of King Louis XIV (16381715). Traditionally, Seychellois performed their music on drums, violins, accordions, and the triangle. Nowadays, the acoustic guitar is usually used as well.

Two young performers, Patrick Victor and David Filoé, have adapted the traditional moutia and séga dances in a modern setting. Seychelles' most celebrated poet is Antoine Abe.

15 EMPLOYMENT

The tourist industry directly employs some 15 percent of the population. In addition, it creates jobs in construction, banking, and other fields. Many households supplement their income from family garden plots and by raising pigs.

An unusual profession on the islands is calou (palm wine) tapping. Tappers must climb a tree twice daily. Using a special tap, they collect the sap in a bamboo or plastic container.

16 SPORTS

Seychellois play a variety of sports. The most popular participant and spectator sport is soccer. Basketball is also popular.

17 RECREATION

Seychellois are fond of singing. They often perform informally together at night when visiting with friends. Families and friends gather on their verandas in the evening for friendly games of checkers and cards.

Seychellois radio and television broadcasts offer programs in Creole, English, and French. Videos and movies are also popular.

18 CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

Seychellois are accomplished painters, drawing inspiration from their environment. Sculptors and carvers fashion teakwood goblets, cigar and jewelry boxes, and board games such as dominoes and backgammon. Jewelers make coral and shell bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Batik-dyed cloth is becoming fashionable.

19 SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Juvenile delinquency, resulting from boredom and isolation, is a growing problem. Many adults suffer from alcoholism. In addition, an alarming number of young people are beginning to use marijuana and heroin. Sexually transmitted diseases are widespread. Efforts to contain them have been ineffective. Domestic abuse remains a problem.

20 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bennett, George. Seychelles. Denver, Colo.: Clio Press, 1993.

Doubilet, David. "Journey to Aldabra." National Geographic (March 1995): 90113.

Franda, Marcus. The Seychelles: Unquiet Islands. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1982.

Mancham, R. James. Paradise Raped: Life, Love and Power in the Seychelles. London: Methuen, 1983.

Vine, Peter. Seychelles. London: Immel Publishing, 1989.

WEBSITES

Internet Africa Ltd. [Online] Available http://www.africanet.com/africanet/country/seychell/, 1998.

World Travel Guide, Seychelles.[Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/sc/gen.html, 1998.

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Seychellois

Seychelloisaargh, Accra, afar, ah, aha, aide-mémoire, ajar, Alcazar, are, Armagh, armoire, Artois, au revoir, baa, bah, bar, barre, bazaar, beaux-arts, Bekaa, bête noire, Bihar, bizarre, blah, Bogotá, Bonnard, bra, cafard, café noir, Calabar, car, Carr, Castlebar, catarrh, Changsha, char, charr, cigar, comme ci comme ça, commissar, coup d'état, de haut en bas, devoir, Dhofar, Directoire, Du Bois, Dumas, Dunbar, éclat, embarras de choix, escritoire, fah, famille noire, far, feu de joie, film noir, foie gras, Fra, galah, gar, guar, guitar, ha, hah, ha-ha, Halacha, hurrah, hussar, huzza, insofar, Invar, jar, je ne sais quoi, ka, kala-azar, Kandahar, Khorramshahr, knar, Krasnodar, Kwa, la-di-da, lah, Lehár, Loire, ma, mama, mamma, mar, Mardi Gras, ménage à trois, mirepoix, moire, Navarre, noir, objet d'art, pa, pah, Panama, papa, par, Pará, Paraná, pas, pâté de foie gras, peau-de-soie, pietà, Pinot Noir, pooh-bah, poult-de-soie, pya, rah, registrar, Saar, Salazar, Sana'a, sang-froid, scar, schwa, Seychellois, shah, Shangri-La, shikar, ska, sol-fa, spa, spar, star, Starr, Stranraer, ta, tahr, tar, tartare, tata, tra-la, tsar, Twa, Villa, voilà, waratah, yah

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Seychellois

Seychellois

PRONUNCIATION: say-shel-WAH
LOCATION: Seychelles Islands
POPULATION: 82,247
LANGUAGE: Creole, English, and French (official languages); Gurijati; Chinese; other European and Oriental languages
RELIGION: Christianity (Roman Catholicism)

INTRODUCTION

The Seychelles Islands take their name from the Viconte Moreau de Seychelles, controller-general of finance in the reign of Louis XV of France. A French possession until 1814, the Seychelles then became a dependent of Mauritius under the British and then a British crown colony in 1903. Early European settlers cut down and sold the hardwood trees of the islands, altering the original ecology and replacing it with a plantation economy. After the abolition of slavery in 1834, Africans worked mainly as sharecroppers, traders, fisherfolk, artisans, and wage laborers. Seychelles gained its independence from Britain in 1976.

From 1977 to 1993, Seychelles was an authoritarian, one-party socialist state. The country's 1979 constitution failed to provide for basic human rights, including them instead in a preamble as a goal of the Seychellois people. France-Albert René took power in a coup in 1977, and intimidated dissidents and opponents by threatening indefinite imprisonment, exile, or confiscation of the property of his political opponents. Police brutality, though not widespread, occurred as a result of René's unchecked power. In June 1993, Seychellois voted for a new constitution, and in July 1993 they voted in the country's first free and fair multiparty elections since the coup. René emerged victorious and was re-elected in 2001. He later surprised many observers when he stepped down in favor of his vice president, James Michel, in 2004. In July 2006 Michel out-polled Wavel Ramkalawan and was elected to a five-year term. His government continues to maintain control over public sector jobs and contracts.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

The Republic of Seychelles is one of the world's smallest nations in size and population. It has a total land area of only 444 sq km (171 sq mi), about two-and-a-half times the size of Washington, D.C. The population measures only 82,247 (2008 estimate). The exact number of islands is unknown but has been estimated at 115, of which about 41 are granitic and the remainder coralline. The republic also includes numerous rocks and small cays. Hills up to 940 m (3,084 ft) high characterize the granite islands, with some narrow coastal plains. The granitic islands are of striking scenic beauty. Coral reefs are found on the east coast, but the coral islands are without fresh water. The tropical climate varies little, rainfall is balanced throughout the year, and temperature is tempered by monsoon ocean breezes.

Mahé, the main island, is the largest at 25 km (15.5 mi) long and 8 km (5 mi) wide, with an area of about 148 sq km (57 sq mi). About 90% of all Seychellois live on Mahé. It contains the capital and only city, Victoria, and the only port, with a population somewhat over 25,000 people (2008 estimate). Victoria lies approximately 1,600 km (1,000 mi) east of Mombasa, Kenya; 2,750 km (1,700 mi) southwest of Bombay; 1,700 km (1,060 mi) north of Mauritius; and 885 km (550 mi) northeast of Madagascar. The only other important islands by virtue of size and population are Praslin and La Digue, situated about 50 km (30 mi) to the northeast of Mahé. The population of the outer coralline group is only about 500 people, mainly composed of plantation workers gathering coconuts for copra. To restrict population growth on Mahé, the government has encouraged people to move to Praslin and other islands where water is available. The population growth rate nationally is only 0.43%.

Most of the population is a relatively homogeneous mixture of African, European, Indian, and Chinese. The majority is Black, having Black African ancestors who arrived on the islands in the 18 and 19th centuries. Chinese were attracted to the islands by small trade. Then British and French colonials came. The Malabards from Maurice Islands and India arrived after the abolition of slavery. Over time, the groups have inter-married, creating an assortment of racial characteristics and numerous shades of complexion. The blending is such that it is impossible to define a typical Seychellois.

LANGUAGE

Seychellois have three official languages: Creole, English, and French. Ninety-six per cent of the population speaks Creole; 45%, English; 37%, French; 0.5%, Gurijati; 0.4%, Chinese; 0.9%, other Oriental languages; and 0.6%, other European languages. Creole was adopted as the first official language in 1981. English is the second official language, and French is the third. The government has emphasized Creole to facilitate reading among primary school pupils and to help establish a distinct culture and heritage. Opponents of the René government thought it a mistake to formalize Creole, which according to them had no standardized spelling system. They regarded it as a great advantage for Seychellois to be bilingual in French and English.

Creole in Seychelles developed from dialects of southwest France spoken by the original settlers. It consists basically of a French vocabulary with a few Malagasy, Bantu, English, and Hindi words and has a mixture of Bantu and French syntax. Very little Seychelles Creole literature exists. The development of an orthography (spelling system) of the language was completed in 1981. The government-backed Kreol Institute promotes the use of Creole by developing a dictionary, sponsoring literary competitions, giving instruction in translation, and preparing course materials to teach Creole to foreigners.

The great majority of younger Seychellois read English, which is the language of government and commerce. It is the language of the People's Assembly, although speakers may also use Creole or French. The principal newspapers carry articles in all three languages. Seychellois Radio and Television Broadcasting both offer programs in Creole, English, and French. Although discouraged by the René regime as a colonialist language, French continues to carry prestige. It is the language of the Roman Catholic Church, and it is used by older people in correspondence. Some 40% of television transmissions are in French—beamed by satellite to an earth station provided by the French government—and most Seychellois can speak and understand the language.

FOLKLORE

Seychellois folklore is as rich as its people's cultural heritage. Accomplished storytellers and singers teach people their culture and social mores through fables, songs, and proverbs. The Creole proverbs are interesting also for the way they demonstrate linguistic derivation. For example, “Sak vid pa kapab debout” (One doesn't work on an empty stomach) translated literally reads “an empty bag will not stand up on its own.”

Storytelling becomes more dramatic at night in the light of a bonfire or under a full moon. Moon shadows from the palm trees, and moonlight glinting from the palm fronds, create a natural theatrical atmosphere for the moutia performance. The moutia began as African slave dancing and improvisational storytelling, which provided a form of release after a long day of laboring for French colonial masters. Two men opened with dialogues on the hard labors of the day. Women then joined in the dance, to much singing and chanting. The pure form has rarely been seen by outsiders, but contemporary performances have become popularized. They still involve dancing with typical African rhythms and hip movements and musicians playing drums from hollowed-out coconut trunks covered with goatskins. The drums are heated by a palm frond fire before the performance to give the desired tone. As in the past, drinks of palm-wine and sugarcane liquor lubricate the performance. The dance is still very personal in some outer islands, and performers often use satire and well-intentioned social critiques to entertain and to teach people of all ages.

RELIGION

Almost all the inhabitants of Seychelles are Christian, and more than 90% are Roman Catholic. Seychelles comprises a single diocese, directly responsible to the Holy See. British efforts to establish Protestantism during the 19th century were not very effective. Sunday masses are well attended, and religious holidays are celebrated throughout the archipelago, as both religious and as social events. Practicing Catholicism, similarly to speaking French, confers a certain social status by its association with French culture.

About 7% of the population of Seychelles are Anglican, most coming from families converted by missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Evangelical Protestant churches are active and growing, among them Pentecostals and Seventh-Day Adventists. Some 3% of the population are adherents of other faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. A small group of Indian Muslims do not mix with the other groups. No restrictions are imposed on religious worship by any of the faiths.

Similar to other Africans, many Seychellois reconcile their Christian beliefs with traditional religious practices, such as magic, witchcraft, and sorcery. It is common for Christians, despite the disapproval of Church authorities, to consult a local seer known as a bonhomme de bois or a bonne femme de bois for fortunetelling. People want to influence the course of events in their love life, a court case, or a job interview. They may also wish to obtain protective amulets or charms, known as gris-gris, or to cause harm to enemies.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Seychellois have 10 public holidays, some of which reflect the strong Roman Catholic background of the Seychelles: New Year's Day, January 1; January 2; Good Friday; Easter Sunday; the Fête Dieu (Corpus Christi); Assumption Day, August 15; All Saints' Day, November 1; the Day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8; Christmas Day, December 25; and the Queen of England's official birthday. Families often take advantage of public holidays to picnic at the beach and swim. On these occasions, they may also find entertainment in the coconut groves, where local musicians and dancers put on a moutia-style performance (see “Folklore”).

RITES OF PASSAGE

Weddings and funerals are occasions for lavish spending. A family might spend half a year's income on a child's wedding because such displays confer status on the family. The guests may stay to party all night. Sometimes both families foot the bills, but sorting out who pays what and how much is tricky and often creates ill feelings when the accounts come due.

Funerals also make social statements about wealth and status. On Mahé, the Catholic Church offers three basic categories. The full treatment consists of bell-ringing three times, singing, organ music, and a sermon. The loud tolling should make the death known to everyone. The middle category involves ringing the bells twice, and everything is much less showy. The lowest category provides only a single bell rung 11 times, but it is free. Islanders might not attend such a funeral, however, for fear of losing status.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

Seychellois are extremely sociable as a rule and often gather in the evening to enjoy each other's company. While older people may share a game of cards or checkers, younger people prefer playing the guitar and singing together on the veranda. Western-style dating is fairly common in Victoria, but in the outer islands traditional forms of recreation usually bring couples together with other young people.

Officially no racism exists in the islands, but Seychellois associate higher social status with lighter skin shades. This norm derives from the formerly dominant Europeans who monopolized wealth and public authority. Thus property, plantation, and business owners, and higher civil servants—mainly Whites or near Whites—are called Grand Blancs. Some 20 planter families, for example, trace their heritage back to French settlers. Under the socialist government, they lost the power and social prestige they once had. The working-class White who works for the grand blanc bears the humorous label, Blanc Coco (white chocolate). Blanc Rouille or “Rusted White” refers to a plantation owner who has inherited a big fortune but is lazy, without education, and needs an educated Black Seychel-lois to do the accounting. Whites whose cleanliness is doubtful are called Blanc Pourri (Rotten White). Lower-class landless people, mostly of African origin, are at the bottom of the status ladder and are called Rouge (Red) or Noir (Black), depending on the darkness of their skin.

Thus, skin color figures importantly in social relationships and in career opportunity. A Grand Blanc generally marries into a family of Whites and near Whites, but so might a person of darker skin color if he or she has the wealth. Since higher-paying prestige jobs usually go to near-White or light-skinned people before those of darker complexion, marrying someone with lighter skin also brings its economic rewards. It is said, jokingly, that after giving birth, a Seychellois mother asks first what the color of her child is and second whether it is a boy or girl.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Health and nutritional conditions are remarkably good in the Seychelles Islands, approaching those of a developed country. Seychelles ranks 36th out of 177 countries on the Human Development Index with the average life expectancy at birth in 2008 at 72.6 years overall. Many factors account for long life expectancy, including a healthy climate; the absence of infectious diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, sleeping sickness, and cholera; and the availability of free medical and hospital services to all Seychellois. Improvements in prenatal and post-natal care since the late 1970s have brought the infant mortality rate down from more than 50 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1978 to an estimated 14.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008, a rate comparable to that of Western Europe. Some 90% of protein in the diet is derived from fish, which along with lentils, rice, and fruits, gives most people a reasonably nutritious diet. Nevertheless, poverty, limited education, poor housing, polluted water, and unbalanced diets adversely affect the health of children. Hookworms and tapeworms have become serious health threats to barefoot children, or to people who eat improperly cooked pork.

Traditional houses rise on stilts above the ground. The main room is used for eating and sleeping. The kitchen is separate to maintain cleanliness. Woven coconut leaves make naturally cool walls and roofs, although galvanized iron is gradually replacing them for roofing.

Buses and cars are the main form of ground transportation in Seychelles. No trains exist. People depend on a government ferry service, which links Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue. The airlines, serviced by 15 airports—six of them with unpaved runways, provide access to the outer islands.

FAMILY LIFE

A unique feature of the Seychellois social and family system is the prevalence of sexual relationships without formal marriage. Most family units take the form of de facto unions known as living en menage. One result of this practice is that nearly three-fourths of all children born in the islands are born out of wedlock, but many are nonetheless legally acknowledged by their fathers.

The institutionalization of en menage unions as an alternative to legal marriage can be attributed to several factors. The expense of socially required wedding festivities, trousseaus, and household furnishings can exceed a year's income for a laborer. An extreme difference in economic status of partners, a mother's wish to retain the earning potential of her son, or a previous marriage by one partner may be impediments to marriage. The difficulty and expense of divorce also tend to discourage a legal relationship. Although frowned upon by the Church and civil authorities, en menage unions are generally stable and carry little stigma for either partner or for their children. Among women of higher status, prevailing standards of social respectability require that they be married to the men with whom they are living. Sexual fidelity is not as likely to be demanded of husbands, who often enter into liaisons with lower-class women.

The pig is a common sight around the Seychellois homestead, much like dogs or chickens. Outside town, 45% to 50% of homes keep at least one pig—veritable “piggy banks.” Pigs are fattened up for sale at peak condition and are usually sold when the family needs cash.

CLOTHING

Dressing well is important for Seychellois, particularly to go to Mass and to special functions. Generally, whether formal or informal, clothing in the Seychelles is similar to that in the United States. For everyday use, people dress comfortably depending on their work. Women go to market in cotton smocks and sandals, wearing locally made straw hats for sun protection. They may also wear African sarongs. These are dressy when going out. Men wear hats too and loose-fitting, short-sleeved shirts and trousers. In the island environment, both men and women wear shorts when dressing casually. Some uniformed public servants, such as traffic police, also wear shorts.

FOOD

The Seychellois are splendid cooks and offer a wide variety of cooking styles, such as English, French, Chinese, and Indian. The diversity of all these cooking styles is combined to create Creole cuisine. Creole cooking is rich, hot, and spicy—a blend of fruit, fish, fresh vegetables, and spices. The basic ingredients include pork, chicken, fish, octopus, or shellfish. Coconut milk makes a good sauce for seafood meals. Seychellois cuisine includes crab, beef, lentil, and onion soups and a whole range of shellfish, fish, poultry, and meat dishes. People also enjoy salads and fruit desserts of mango, papaya, breadfruit, and pineapple.

Seychellois consume an average of 80 kg (176 lb) of fish a year. It is served in many ways: grilled on firewood, curried, in bullions, and as steak. Turtle meat was once easily found and is called “Seychelles beef.”

Typically, people eat three meals a day. Breakfast may include eggs and bacon, while lunch is the heaviest meal of the day and usually includes rice. The high consumption of rice means that much rice must be imported. The government subsidizes rice imports, but wines and imported fruits and drinks are expensive and out of reach for most budgets. Locally made alcoholic beverages include palm-wine (calou) and bacca, a powerful sugarcane liquor regulated by the government. People drink bacca on ceremonial occasions.

EDUCATION

Seychelles has a high literacy rate: more than 92% of school-aged children read and write. Although many older Seychel-lois did not learn to read or write in their childhood, thanks to adult education classes, 85% were literate by 1991. Until the mid-1800s, schooling in the islands was mainly informal. Both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches opened mission schools in 1851. The missions continued to operate the schools (the teachers were monks and nuns from abroad) after the government took charge in 1944. After a technical college opened in 1970, a supply of locally trained teachers became available, and many new schools were established. In 1979, the government introduced free and compulsory primary education for children between 6 and 15 years of age. In 1980, the government initiated a program of educational reform based on the British comprehensive system. Since 1981, a system of free education has been in effect, requiring attendance by all children in grades one to nine, beginning at age 5. Some 90% of all children also attend nursery school at age 4.

Children first learn to read and write in Creole. Beginning in grade three, English becomes the teaching language in certain subjects. In grade six, pupils begin learning French. After completing six years of primary school and three years of secondary school, students who wish to continue their education attend a National Youth Service (NYS) program. The NYS is a Seychellois hybrid of scouting and 4-H. Students live at an NYS village and wear special brown and beige uniforms. In addition to academic instruction, the students receive practical training in gardening, cooking, housekeeping, and livestock-raising. One of the purposes of this program is to reduce youth unemployment. Students produce much of their own food, cook their own meals, and do their own laundry. They learn the principles of self-government by holding group sessions and serving on committees.

After completing their NYS program, students may attend Seychelles Polytechnic, a technical trade school. The largest number of students are enrolled in teacher training, business studies, humanities and sciences, and hotels and tourism. Since no opportunities for higher education are available on the islands, students study abroad through British, US, and French scholarship programs.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

The diversity of peoples has made Seychellois culture unique. African, European, and Asian influences are present in Seychellois music, dance, literature, and visual art. African rhythms are apparent in the moutia or séga dance performances, which include body-shaking and hip movements found on the continent. The sokoué dance resembles masked African dancing. Dancers portray birds, animals, and trees under the camouflage of coconut leaves and straw. The contredanse is a French import, with origins in the court of Louis XIV. The earliest French colonists introduced it to the islands. It synthesizes waltzing and polka, and is enjoyed at parties and weddings. Traditionally, Seychellois performed their music with drums, violins, accordions, and the triangle. Nowadays, the acoustic guitar typically accompanies these instruments.

Seychellois life is also told through poetry. Poems tell of the good old days, legends, superstitions, nature, and community. Seychelles' most celebrated poet is Antoine Abe.

WORK

Seychelles' economy is built upon tourism, fishing and offshore business and financial services. With a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) over more than $18,000 in 2007, Seychelles ranked in the upper-middle income group of countries. However, given Seychelles' dependence on imports and the consequent high cost of living, the minimum wage of $290/month (2007) did not provide a living wage. To make ends meet, many households kept a home garden and a family pig (see “Family Life”).

Most jobs on the islands are created by tourism. Up to 180,000 annual visitors—the vast majority of whom are tourists—provide employment in services, hotel construction and other tourist industry activities. Thirty percent of the population is directly employed by this sector.

An unusual profession on the islands is calou (palm-wine) tapping. The government has licensed several thousand palm trees for this purpose. A tapper may rent a tree from its owner for tapping, or may collect the sap for the owner or tree-renter. The tapper must climb the tree twice daily and collect the juice, which flows from a tap, which pierces the growing tip of the palm. The sap is collected in a bamboo or plastic receptacle. A palm cannot produce coconuts and calou simultaneously. Constant tapping, however, can kill a tree.

SPORTS

Seychellois play a variety of sports. The most popular participant and spectator sport is soccer, but basketball is also popular. Leisure sports such as diving, sailing, windsurfing, and waterskiing are mainly enjoyed by tourists.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

Seychellois have moved into the age of modern communications and world culture through television, cell phones, and the Internet. The government reported that Seychellois had 13,000 television sets in 1994. The government television station reaches between 75% and 80% of the population via three relay stations. Videos, DVDs, and movies are popular, too. More than one-third of the population uses the Internet for news, entertainment, and messaging.

Traditional forms of recreation revolve around socializing, music and dancing. Families and friends enjoy a Sunday afternoon at the beach and gathering on their verandas in the evening for friendly games of checkers and cards. Seychel-lois also are fond of singing and often perform informally at night when visiting with friends. At parties they may dance the whole night through. They are quite uninhibited in this respect. Thousands of people listen to Sechellois music on the radio throughout the day. Two young performers, Patrick Victor and David Filoé, have transformed the traditional moutia and séga dances in their contemporary music.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

Seychellois artisans have transformed traditional folk art and crafts into livelihoods. Seychellois are accomplished painters, drawing inspiration from the mountains, coves, palms, sun-streaked skies, and workers in the islands. Sculptors and carvers fashion chalices of teak, cigar, and jewelry boxes, and board games such as dominoes and backgammon. Jewelers make coral and shell bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Batik-dyed cloth is becoming fashionable and is in high demand by tourists. Artisans use natural motifs such as birds and fish in their original designs.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Although close to being an island paradise, the archipelago is not without its social problems. Since the 1970s, Seychelles has struggled with patronage, corruption, and human rights violations. Since the early 1990s, the record has improved—partly because the government has relaxed its attitude toward dissident and opposition groups. However, other social problems are emerging. Juvenile delinquency, associated with boredom and isolation, is a growing problem. Many adults suffer from alcoholism, and an alarming number of young people are beginning to use marijuana and heroin. Venereal diseases are widespread, and efforts to contain them have been ineffective. Wife-beating remains a problem, and reports indicate that a significant number of girls under 15, usually from low-income families, are being raped and sexually abused. The police have not prosecuted these cases vigorously.

In addition, the financial benefits of Seychelles' tourist industry come with costs. After 11 September 2001, the number of tourists dropped sharply serving as a reminder to the country that its major industry was vulnerable to terrorist threats and outside shocks. Moreover, thousands of visitors stress the country's fragile eco-system, and along with indigenous population pressures, have an adverse impact on the environment. Further, efforts to accommodate tourists have increased illegal drug use and encouraged prostitution.

GENDER ISSUES

In principle, women enjoy the same legal, political, economic, and social rights as men. Women form nearly half of the enrollment at the prestigious Seychelles Polytechnic. In 2008 two women held cabinet posts, and there were 10 women in the 34-seat national assembly, seven of whom were directly elected and three of whom were chosen by proportional representation.

Female assertiveness is due partly to an essentially matriarchal society. Mothers are dominant in the household, controlling most daily expenditures and looking after the interests of the children. Men are breadwinners, but their domestic role is relatively peripheral. Older women can usually count on financial support from family members living at home, or from contributions of grown children. Family size is relatively small by African standards, largely because about one-third of all Seychellois women of reproductive age use some form of contraception (1980).

Nevertheless, women are not exempt from exploitation and they do suffer discrimination. In 2007 the police registered more than 50 rape cases, four sexual assaults, and there were reports of domestic violence and female prostitution.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Africa South of the Sahara 2007. “Seychelles.” London: Europa Publishers, 2008.

Alexander, Douglas. Holiday in Seychelles: A Guide to the Islands. New York: Purnell, 1972.

Bennett, George. Seychelles. Denver, CO: Clio Press, 1993.

Desiles, Clarisse. A La Reunion, A l'Ile Maurice, Aux Seychelles. Poitiers, France: Offset-Aubin, 1976.

Franda, Marcus. The Seychelles Unquiet Islands. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1982.

Groelsema, Robert J. “Seychelles: Ramkalawan and SNP Gain Ground on SPPF” Africa Contemporary Record, vol. 28, (2001–02), New York: Holmes and Meier, 2005.

Mancham, R. James. Paradise Raped: Life, Love and Power in the Seychelles. London: Methuen, 1983.

Tartter, Jean R. “Seychelles.” In Indian Ocean: Five Island Countries, edited by Helen Chapin Metz. Washington, DC: Headquarters Department of the Army, 1994.

Touboul, Richard. Les Seychelles Aujourd'hui. Paris: Les Editions Jeune Afrique, 1979.

U.S. Department of State. “Seychelles Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2007.” Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2008.

—by R. Groelsema

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