M for Moris

I’ve decided to always use the word as above, in Morissian Creole (Kreol Morisyen), unless I am talking about the Mauritian state with its oppressiveness (of Rodrigues and Agalega too) and its pro-colonial ties.

I was once deciding upon using the first name it was given by Arab sailors, a century before the Dutch even found the island (and perpetrated the first of 3 or 4 colonisations). It would require new adjectives and there is a confusion on which was called Dina Arobi and which was Dina Mozare. It is also claimed the island was visited, but not settled, by early Malay mariners, as well as Phoenicians before them.

Encyclopedia Mauritiana claims that this inscription is Arabic.

I’m writing this since a month or so and came across various things while doing so. h/t Zoulou Madsen Leblanc for screenshots of occasional pages of books that I would otherwise have no access to.

A page from ‘Island of the Swan’, Michael Malim, 1953

These seas were a place to be avoided by sailors because of the risk of tropical storms. So by chance, the Arabs located Dina Arobi, Dina Mozare and Dina Margabin, collectively called Tirakka, on this side of the Indian Ocean, that arab sailors called Waqwaq.

“A poor people who live in and around the hills and in caves, mostly tributaries of the local kings or of the Arabs. These peoples (according to  African authors) originally came from Phoenicia, and were called Moors or Morophoros; they were thrown out of the the land of Joshua, son of Nau, who lived with the Egyptians, passing to Libya and afterward founding the famous city of Carthage, 1278 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was 3929 years after the creation of our world. And according to Ibni Al Raquiq, for many years they lived in this city, a great stone city with a fountain, saying: ‘We are the people who fled the presence of the thief of Joshua, son of Nau.’ When these people came to Africa, they had already ruled it, Asclepios and Heracles, and also ruled Spain, 1693 years before Christ. After that, Carthage being destroyed for the first time, before Dido re-established it, some of these peoples passed through western Berberia, with Annone, their captain. They established the Libyan cities, Phoenician cities, where they lived when the Romans came to Africa, calling it Mauretania, named for the valley dwellers called Maurophoros.”  –  Luis del Marmol Caravajal, Granada, 1573

“Recently the Omani Foreign Minister claimed to have evidence that Mauritius in fact formed part of their kingdom in the 15th century and as such was occupied by them.”

Isn’t it about time we honour at least the Moors or Morophoros and consider the name of the island to be doing so instead of being a remberance of the Dutch royalty?

The latter and the whole patriotic attitude of oblivion towards Chagos indicate that we never got independence, our minds never did. We are not in any way decolonised. While we are supposedly advocating for the decolonisation of Chagos, this ‘Independence Day’ should have indicated that, in sobriety/mourning.

“Last year I had a little chat with Lisette Talate [Chagossian woman and decolonisation activist]; she said to me “when the cannons are heard and the flag raised, it is as if my heart is being stabbed with a knife. For you it is a celebration, for me it is mourning”. Today when we sing our national anthem, think of those who have been sacrificed on the altar. We are commemorating not only our independence but also their deportation.” — Patrick L Marie, 2012. via D. Bruno Duval.

“Lannee derniere mo ti gagn enn ti dialog ek Lisette Talate, li dir moi “kan sa bann kanon la resonner ek sa drapo la leve li koumadir enn bann cout couto dan mo leker. Pou zot li enn fet pou moi li enn lenterrement” Zordi kan nou sant motherland pense bann ki inn sakrifier lor lotel. Zordi enn zour comemoration, mais pa selman nou lindependence mais aussi zot deportation.” Patrick L. Marie, via D Bruno Duval

Coincidentally, even Morissian artists are boycotting the Independence Day Celebrations which is usually the only day they get employed or remunerated by the State. It doesn’t even have proper copyright laws in place locally and artists have been arrested last year for protesting the fact that piracy is essentially fine, done in the open and institutionally permitted. The hawker gets the money for selling their music and they obviously get nothing.

We ought to remember Rodrigues, Agalega and Chagossians every time we want to be patriotically proud, or relevant. So we must recall their lack of autonomy, the growing lack of autonomy with Agalega reportedly being quietly sold to India just like Chagos was sold/excised for Mauritian independence. Just like Benjamin Zephaniah and others are advocating alongside Chagossians, we should have a vast solidarity movement that does not solely consist of Mauritians signing petitions or debating for their political gain.