Every 12th of March Mauritius celebrates its independence. The day before, or the Friday before in case that day is a Sunday or a Monday, the red-blue-yellow-and-green flag is raised and the Mauritian anthem is sung in schools across the country.
Almost all schools in Mauritius, whether private or public, follow the British curriculum, but a handful of privately-owned Mauritian schools follow the French curriculum instead. There, pupils are taught in French and a small percentage of the staff is made of French expatriates. In several of these schools, for many years now, on the 11th of March or a few days before, the French anthem — La Marseillaise — used to be played after the Mauritian anthem.
I still remember an article about this oddity, published perhaps ten years ago in a Mauritian daily, which expressed the author’s discontent with the matter. In essence, he was saying that it was inappropriate to sing “happy birthday Aunt France” on the very birthday of her nephew, little Maurice. He was right in the sense that this day has nothing to do with a former colonial power which once upon a time owned the island, and he could have highlighted that in no school following a British curriculum did anyone sing “God save the Queen” on that occasion.
A number of years ago I was myself a pupil in one of those so-called “French schools” — which in fact are Mauritian schools following a French curriculum and French guidelines, though France did provide some financial support and continues to do so I believe, to some extent. I remember we were singing the Mauritian anthem in French, while it is usually sung in English. To this day I know the anthem far better in French than in English. “Gloire à toi île Maurice, île Maurice, ô ma mère patrie, fraîche est ta beauté, doux est ton parfum, nous voici tous debout, pararap-pap-pap, comme un seul peuple, une seule nation, en paix, justice et liberté. Pays bien aimé que Dieu te bé-énisse, aujourd’hui et toujooours.” But I can’t remember if we used to sing “Allons zenfants” just after.
From two reliable sources I gather that this year (i.e. yesterday, 9 March 2012), after many, many years of singing Mr Rouget de Lisle’s war song, the new proviseur of the Lycée Labourdonnais, Mr Marc Haradji, decided that La Marseillaise would no longer be chanted after the Motherland, which was sung — another innovation — in both French and English. At last!
While some were singing “Glo-o-ry-y to thee” in their schools, others were preparing the venue for the show that is to take place at the Champ de Mars on the douze mars.
The unavoidable noise-and-flash equipment:
The indispensable red-carpeted stands, to allow the great people to stay above the fray:
The necessary barriers to keep the rabble away from the elected ones:
A special passage being built over the green grass of the racecourse:
Le goudron (mais pas les plumes) :
It is expected that French paratroopers will jump over the Champ de Mars during the show. Some people who seem to enjoy some sort of struggle as well as the word “non” didn’t seem to like the idea of an aerial display of foreign might. Their yellow posters, displayed in Port Louis, were proclaiming the following message:
Non a prezans kolonyal solda franse
Their lafis were swiftly covered with new, more official posters:
Maurice République Durable
Fête Nationale 2012
Lundi 12 mars à 17h
Champ de Mars
Levée du Drapeau
Défilé de la Police
Spectacle: Maurice République Durable