13 July 2012

Mauritius: Writing for Fun

The bookshops in Mauritius, have mostly in the past dealt in school texts, with supporting volumes such as dictionaries, encyclopaedias and grammar and occasional romances for teenagers of all ages. For there has yet to emerge a wide commercial trade in books of literature. Thus writing in Mauritius is either for school, official purposes, or just for fun.

Now this is not to say Mauritius has no singular proponents of literature but this is largely confi ned to French, whilst its English equivalent is just approaching its infancy, though carefully nurtured by a small coterie of the local literati with the indomitable Shakuntala Howaldar in the fore, bustling the shyest would- be poets, dramatists and essayists from their private fancies into the tougher world of public appraisal.

Beyond the fi eld of national journalism, tourist guides and an occasional political biography, writing in Mauritius is hardly a profession and certainly not a commercial venture. It is for fun, not fortune: yet despite this some such as Bhishmadev Seebaluck, with his witty column ' Dear Shakespeare' and the poet diplomat Joseph Tsang Man Kin, have become national treasures.

The principal parent organisation for the developing child of creative writing in English, has been the Mauritian Writers' Association ( MWA) which took its very fi rst steps in 1999 under the guidance of Shakuntala Hawoldar and Bhishmadev Seebaluck. Its objectives are to bring together local writers for common activities in the fi elds of literature and allied artistic creativity. It sponsors new writers, organising showcases of readings and conferences, linking writers to ways of publishing their work.

A series of monthly MWA evenings for reading fresh texts is now being revived for both writers and their audience seeking something deeper in their lives. The MWA is also planning its 8 th International Conference in mid 2013 with the United Nations Educational, Scientifi c and Cultural Organisation ( UNESCO), on the theme ' the role of culture in a globalized world'. This will serve to broaden the perspective from creative writing per se, to the UNESCO vision of heritage. Writing then has the greater task of recording and reviewing the wider role of the arts, painting, sculpture, music, design, theatre, fi lm, archaeology, even sports, culinary and other activities, whose patterns depict and promote the peculiar life of a nation which defi nes its cultural identity in the face of the dominance of global change.

The private sector is backing the venture with a souvenir publication of current work. So be bold and put pen to paper, or open a new Word fi le and tap- tap for publication next year by the MWA as a souvenir of writing for fun.

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