Society and culture
The Republic of Seychelles has a multi-party political system with an executive President as head of state and government. The President heads a Cabinet of 13 ministers which includes the Vice-President.
In April 2004, Mr. James Alix Michel replaced Mr. France Albert René as President after Mr. René had been in office since 1977. The Vice President is currently Mr. Danny Faure. The designated Minister is Mr Vincent Meriton, who is currently the Minister for Community Development, Social Affairs and Sports.
Legislative power is vested in a National Assembly of 32 members of whom 25 are elected directly in constituencies with the balance on proportional basis based on the results of the National Assembly elections.
Parti Lepep, The People’s Party, previously known as the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF), currently led by President Michel, holds 31 seats in the Assembly.
The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), headed by Mr David Pierre, holds one seat in the Assembly.
The other main political parties (not currently represented in the National Assembly) are the Seychelles National Party (SNP) headed by Rev. Wavel Ramkalawan and the Seselwa United Party (SUP), headed by Mr. Ralph Volcere.
The Republic of Seychelles is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Commonwealth and La Francophonie. It has embassies in Paris, New York, Brussels,Addis Ababa, Abu Dhabi, New Delhi, Beijing, Pretoria and London as well as numerous honorary consulates worldwide.
Today, the approximately 90,000 strong Seychellois population continues to reflect its multi-ethnic roots. Traditionally, the islands have attracted a broad diversity of peoples from the four corners of the earth that has included freed slaves, European settlers, political exiles, adventurers, traders of Arab and Persian origin as well as Chinese and Indians.
Practically every nation on earth has been represented in this melting pot of cultures, each one contributing its special influence to today’s vibrant yet tranquil society.
Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion of Seychelles but there are also Anglican and Protestant churches and the places of worship of other denominations. These live in harmony alongside, Muslim, Hindu and Bahaï communities based on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
Seychelles’ architecture is at once distinctive in its style and practical in its design. It clearly illustrates the influences of its colonial past and combines these with practical considerations such as steep roofs to shoot the rain, wide verandas to make the most of a climate that encourages outdoor living as well as features to make the most of the island breezes.
Traditionally, Seychellois houses featured an outside kitchen so that the racy aromas of the cuisine did not invade the living space.
Seychelles’ colonial past is seen in the competition between wealthy land and plantation owners to create the most opulent approach to their dwelling, often culminating in stately stairs on four sides.
Originally, many houses would have been roofed with thatch from the coconut plantations but, for practical and novelty reasons, these gave way to corrugated iron sheeting when that became available.
Many of the nation’s smaller houses imitate to a greater or lesser extent these design features with early wooden panelling increasingly giving way to concrete.
For such a small country, Seychelles has a vibrant art scene that encompasses painters, sculptors, writers and poets, artisans of many types, musicians and dancers.
Painters have traditionally taken inspiration from the richness of Seychelles’ natural beauty to produce a wide range of works using mediums ranging from water-colours to oils, acrylics, collages, metals, aluminium, wood, fabrics, gouache, varnishes, recycled materials, pastels, charcoal, embossing, etching, and giclee prints. Local sculptors produce fine works in wood, stone, bronze and cartonnage.
Local writers and poets have also used the magnificent backdrop of Seychelles as the inspiration for historical accounts, fascinating works documenting the social history of the islands and its people and collections of short stories and poems that evoke the passions of island living.
Throughout Seychelles, there are many artisans producing works of art that are as varied and diverse as their surrounds and which include stained glass, products made from coconut shell, husk, seashells and corals, clothing, gold, silver and other forms of jewellery, recycled materials, fibres, bamboo, metal and pottery.
Music and dance have always played a prominent role in Seychelles culture and in all types of local festivities. Rooted in African, Malagasy and European cultures, music is played to the accompaniment of drums such as the Tambour and Tam-Tam and simple string instruments. The violin and guitar are relatively recent foreign imports which play a prominent role in today’s music.
The lively Sega dance with its elegant hip-swaying and shuffling of the feet is still popular as is the traditional Moutya, a mysterious, erotic dance dating back to the days of slavery when it was often used as an outlet for strong emotions and as a way of expressing discontent.
Kanmtole is a foreign dance import, accompanied by banjos, accordion, violin and triangle and reminiscent of a Scottish reel while the Kontredanse with its intricate movements has its origins in the French court and is danced to the strains of banjo, triangle and to the instructions of the ‘Komandan’ or Commander who calls the sets.
Several groups of traditional dancers perform at local functions as do modern groups playing jazz, reggae, country & western, hip-hop, ballads and classic rock. Several choirs exist singing traditional hymns and promoting choral music with a repertoire that includes sacred, secular, gospel and folk pieces.
Cuisine & Recipes
Echoing the grand assortment of people who populate Seychelles, Creole cuisine features the subtleties and nuances of French cooking, the exoticism of Indian dishes and the piquant flavours of the Orient.
Grilled fish or octopus coated with a sauce of crushed chillies, ginger and garlic are national favourites as are a variety of delicious curries lovingly prepared with coconut milk and innovative chatinis made from local fruits such as papapya and golden apple.
As may be expected, seafood dishes feature predominantly in the local cuisine, appearing alongside the national staple, rice.
Some restaurants specialise in Indian, Chinese or Italian food and many feature popular international and specialist dishes.
Before finding a mouthpiece in television, radio broadcasts and through the written word, folklore in Seychelles relied much on oral tradition for its dissemination.
Over the years it has traditionally revolved around certain familiar characters such as ‘Soungula’, renowned for his cleverness and resourcefulness in solving life’s problems, as well as other colourful personalities such as Frer Zako, Kader, Tizan and Kousoupa.
Certain popular fables and stories still do the rounds, dating back to those days before television when there was little in the way of popular entertainment and these remain mediums for providing an audience with insights as to the correct way to live, island-style.