Dev Virahsawmy is a Mauritian poet and politician. He is of African and Indian origins, and grew up in the village of Goodlands. He studied at a university in Scotland before returning to Mauritius in 1967. Virahsawmy is known for his involvement in politics, alongside his work as an author. Literature and politics are useful to Virahsawmy. They help him to promote the use of Morisyen, or Mauritian Creole.
Mauritius became independent in 1968. Virahsawmy wanted to make Creole the national language. Most Mauritians speak Creole as their first language but it is not the official language of Mauritius. However, Virahsawmy wanted Creole to be the language used in literature, government and daily life. He won a seat in the Mauritian Parliament, a part of the government and votes on laws. Virahsawmy created the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM). This was a political group. But Virahsawmy was put in prison for his views. In prison he began to write poems.
MAURITIAN CREOLE IN LITERATURE
Virahsawmy can speak English and French but he chooses to write in Creole. This is because he wanted Creole to have the status of a world language. He writes poetry, plays and novels in Creole. His literary work has lots of different themes: freedom, cultural identity and the value of women.
The first play he wrote in Creole was Li, which he wrote this in prison. He told people how he felt by putting his feelings into the poem. He talks about protest. By writing in Creole he shows everyone how important he thinks the language is for Mauritians.
Virahsawmy likes to make his own stories out of famous writing from other cultures. In 1991 he wrote Toufann. It is a funny play about people who belong to different cultures and and speak different languages, despite living on the same island together. In the play Virahsawmy thinks about culture, language and tradition.
Alongside his written work, Virahsawmy translates a lot of famous literature into Creole. This means he takes books from one language and turns them into Creole for Mauritians to read. He wants Mauritians to be able to share in the cultures of other people and to feel closer to their language. For example, at the moment he is helping to translate parts of the Bible.
Virahsawmy shows us that our African languages are special and important. We should protect these languages and their heritage. Creole should be celebrated, as should the Mauritian heritage. Mauritius is small but full of many different cultures. Virahsawmy writes in Creole to give Mauritians a feeling of cultural identity. His writing has changed the way people see language in Mauritius.