Guadeloupe: Why not celebrate Kwanzaa as well?

Besides the traditional celebration of Christmas, Guadeloupean people have recently taken up a new celebration: Kwanzaa, which starts on December 26 and lasts until January 1.

This new phenomenon is made all the more interesting since Guadeloupe, which is historically Roman Catholic, celebrates Christmas as a part of a strong cultural heritage – even non religious people mark the occasion. So how come they have recently been including the celebration of Kwanzaa as part of the season? To answer this question, Shaka Zulu in Gwafakwika tutors his readers [in Creole] about “what exactly is Kwanzaa?”

Ka sa yé ankò Kwanzaa? On mak fabrik? Awa sé sélébrasyon kiltirèl a tout nèg a si latè. E sé osi sélébrasyon a tout kominoté é tout fanmi nèg. Ki moun ki kréyé sa? Sé on dénonnmé doktè Maulana Karanga ki sé profésè a étid afrikenn an péyi mériken. I kréyé sa an 1966. Pou ki i kréyé-y? Sé padavwa tout nèg ka apwann tout kilti a dòt pèp é ras andéwò dè ta yo. Kwanzaa a pa on rèlijyon mé on sélébrasyon kiltirèl

What exactly is Kwanzaa? Is it just another label? No, it is a cultural celebration for all Black people on Earth. It is also the celebration of all Black communities and families. Who created this celebration? It was a man called Doctor Maulana Karanga, who was a teacher of African Studies in the USA. He created it in 1966. And why did he create it? It was because he thought Black people always learnt about other people's culture instead of their own. Kwanzaa is not about religion but rather a cultural celebration.

Another explanation is given by Allain Jules in leflingueur [Fr]:

C’est un évènement majeur, le plus important même pour les negro-africains. Importé des Etats-Unis depuis peu, il a déjà commencé à faire jaser sérieusement en France.

It is a key event, the most important one for African-Americans. Recently imported from the USA, Kwanzaa has made people talk so much.

Jules goes on to reassert the non-religious and comprehensive dimension of Kwanzaa:

Kwanza est donc un ensemble permettant à la fois de se retrouver pour mieux se connaître, de parler pour mieux s’apprécier, de manger des mets de l’océan indien, les saveurs africaines ou caribéennes, de partager des idées d’innovation, de vocation, de créativité, de découverte, de coopération, tant politique, sociale, qu’économique, et de mettre en place, des entraides.

Kwanzaa is rather a comprehensive celebration which gives people the opportunity to get to know each other, to talk together to like each other better, to feast on meals from the Indian Ocean countries, African or Caribbean specialties, to share ideas about innovation, creativity, discovery, political, social and economic cooperation and to launch partnerships.

…which begs the question of who brought this celebration of Kwanzaa, “created” in the USA, to Guadeloupe. Part of the answer could be the massive influx of the Guadeloupean youth into the United States of America (about a decade ago, the younger generation of Guadeloupeans began to consider North America as an alternative to Continental France for their university studies.) But Shaka Zulu answers the question most precisely through this reference to Ama Mazama [Fr]:

Ama Mazama est également connue sous le nom de Marie-Josée Cérol. Native de la Guadeloupe, elle est docteur en linguistique (Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1987), et enseigne au Department of African American Studies de la Temple University (États-Unis).

Ama Mazama is also known as Marie-Josée Cérol. Born in Guadeloupe, she is a Doctor in Linguistics from La Sorbonne Nouvelle University (Paris, France) and teaches at the department of African-American Studies of Temple University (USA)

As we can hear from this video from the French Swiss media, le [Fr] Ama Mazama is well-known for her commitment to Pan-Africanism and her view on the history of the colonization in Africa and the Caribbean. That is partly why she took up a new name, shedding her previous Guadeloupean name for an African one. No surprise then, to discover that she is the one who decided ten years ago, to make Guadeloupeans understand what the celebration of Kwanzaa is all about.

This year, as in previous ones, Ama Mazama is back in Guadeloupe to celebrate Kwanzaa with family, friends and a growing number of people who have discovered and taken up the tradition. The big event in Guadeloupe is taking place on Saturday, December 27th 2008 following this schedule:

1/ Conférence-débat (vidéo-projection)
Thème : Les implications de l’Election d’OBAMA pour le monde noir.

2/ Présentation des 7 préceptes du Kwanzaa

3/ Festivités : Echanges culturels, poèmes, Gwo Ka…

1/ Conference and debate (video projection)
Topic: The effects of the election of Obama for the black world
2/ Introduction to the seven precepts of Kwanzaa
3/ Entertainment: cultural exchanges, poems, Gwo Ka

…and of course the traditional Kwanzaa feast!

1 comment

  • zouzou

    Sa paka pozé on lo magazen dékoré vitrin ayo avè bwanbwann a Alowin’, men Kwanzaa ki sé on biten a nèg pa ka touvé plas ay.
    Si gwadloupéyen é dòt pèp nèg désidé mèt kwanzaa douvan, sa ké on bon biten é asiré sèten, moun ké vin’ méyè.

    Editor’s Translation: Most big stores don’t mind decorating their windows with Halloween ornaments but Kwanzaa which is a “black” tradition just can’t find its right place in our society.
    If Guadeloupean people and other black people choose to put Kwanzaa into its right place then you can be sure that our world will be improved.

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