12 March marks the National Day of Mauritius, the anniversary of their independence from the United Kingdom in 1968. On the same date in 1992 Mauritius became a republic.
Located east of Madagascar, the Republic of Mauritius comprises not only the island of Mauritius itself but also the islands of St Brandon, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands. Records of Mauritius date back to the 10th century, when Arab and Malay sailors visited the island. In 1507 the Portuguese travelled there, establishing a base. In 1598 the Dutch came to the island by accident (they were blown off course during a cyclone) and gave the island its name, in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau. The Dutch abandoned the island in 1638, and next it was the turn of the French, who came to Mauritius in 1715. In 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars, the island came under British rule, though the French language was still used. Today, English is the official language, but Mauritian Creole, Bhojpuri, French and Chinese are all recognised regional languages. Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy.
Mauritius was also the only known habitat of the Dodo, which were extinct by 1681.
Edouard Maunick is a Mauritian poet who writes in French. In 2003 he was awarded the Grand Prix de la Francophonie. He is of mixed African, Indian and French descent.
Below is a section of a longer poem by Maunick entitled "Carousels of the Sea". I've taken it from the wonderful Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, which I recommend to all readers interested in world literature. (I promise, not all my poems come from this anthology. I do some genuine ferreting around online and in the library.) The poem is translated from the French by Gerald Moore.
From Carousels of the Sea
Further off is the measured force the word of the sea
Further without leeway for the blueing shoulder of the horizon
harm is born of the light
when it capsizes under the voyages’ assault
when it watches oblivion like a beast
and seeks the shipwreck of ten-year-old villages
conclusive shifts of time in exile
further off is risk without defeat
the ever renewed patience of the shadow
to find words beyond language
further the serpent in the blood
broken by all betrayals
victories of voluntary resignation
I did not leave in order to forget
I am mulatto
the Indian ocean will never give way to the city of today
but harm compromises in me harm however come by
I repeat further off to stain the liquid mirrors
to cross a threshold where you await me since the poem
translated by Gerald Moore
from The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry