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Course: MCAT > Unit 1

Lesson 1: Critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) practice questions

Culture crossing and mixing in Mauritius


Culture is quite an issue in Mauritius, a small island nation off the east coast of Africa, because of the number of culture crossings and mixings. The French brought slaves from different parts of Africa and Madagascar, but also from the French colony next door, La Reunion, known at that time as Ile Bourbon, so that they could not communicate. This was a strategy of the masters to preclude any revolts. The slaves did find a way to communicate among themselves by mixing their ancestral language with that of their masters’ language. Perhaps they also used body language. Nevertheless, the mixing of languages gave birth to a pidgin, which has continued to evolve and enrich itself with the crossings of other cultures. Today, it is called “Kreol Morisien” and it is spoken by 99% of the Mauritians. According to a Mauritian linguist I interviewed, this language contains around 90% of French words.
The slaves were also forcibly christened upon their arrival in Mauritius. Hence, it was what Mauritian historian, Jocelyn Chan Low, called a “cultural genocide.” However, we later discovered that the African cultures did not disappear completely. According to some, fragments of their cultures did survive, through music, for example, where the slaves would sing in order to lament their poor lives. Today, this music is part of the Mauritian culture. This new type of music, which derived from the African cultures, became known as the “sega”. The Maroon slaves also transmitted fragments of their African cultures to their descendants through a religious cult, which is still practised today, although it was, and still is, condemned by the Catholic Church. According to people I interviewed, this cult is called “longanis” in the Mauritian Kreol language. During that same period, sailors from several parts of the world passed through Mauritius on their way to or from the British Indian Empire. Under the French rule, Chinese people migrated to Mauritius and brought their cultures along with them. To this day, their descendants have maintained their cultural heritage, through their language and some specific cults.
More cultures crossed Mauritius when the British took over the island. This was the last colonisation of Mauritius, but not the last culture crossing, for the new owners of the island abolished slavery in 1835 and brought in indentured labourers from India.
The slaves were taken by force from the African continent with different cultures. It was almost the same thing for the indentured labourers, but unlike the slaves, they were allowed to keep their cultures and their family names. They were paid, though not enough for the work done, according to some of their descendants interviewed. Some people argue that indentured labour was a disguised and new form of slavery. They were, however, freed at the end of their contract. This is not meant to quantify or to compare the suffering between slavery and indentured labour, which is, of course, non-quantifiable, but it is meant to show the results of this historical situation on their descendants. The indentured labourers came from several parts of India. Henceforth, these different cultures would come across each other without being widely mixed with the former cultures on the island. The Hindus were the first to create the system of community in Mauritius. They also developed schools known as “baitka”, to teach their ancestral languages and other aspects of their culture to their descendants. Some historians said that it was the beginning of protectionism, thus the beginning of communitarianism.
Which of the following statements best captures a key point of the passage? The culture of Mauritius:
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