Back in the small place

So after a very pleasant, but quite distracting summer, we’ve just got back to Mayotte. I say ‘the small place’ because it is, well, small, but also because it was the first in Clara’s series People Who Live in Small Places. I was honoured to start that series off back in January – it now includes several others: Virgin Gorda, St. Croix (US Virgin Islands), Roatan (Honduras), Gibraltar and Brunei, to name just a few. You can check out the series here and for anyone interested in expat life, Clara has also written an excellent Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.

Though I’ve been away for almost three months, I only had to get on the barge, as the ferry between the two islands of Mayotte is called, to feel as if I’d never left. The lagoon, the bouéni in their colourful salouvas, and the occasional gendarme made sure of that. It’s good to be back, settling down to resume work on the sequel to One Green Bottle, provisionally called Perfume Island (i.e. Mayotte). Hopefully also get back into blogging, not just posting but exploring other blogs – it’s all been a bit sporadic of late. As far as this blog goes, Pic’n’Post will move to Fridays and from next week, the Thursday Interview returns. I’m grateful to Sir Souvenir Mug for agreeing to kick off the new series – find out what he has to say on 25th! In the meantime, to those who’ve recently discovered this blog, welcome, bienvenue, karibu!

Le salouva vous va bien

salouva

Mayotte is 95% Muslim, but there’s one thing to be said for women’s fashion here – it’s far from drab. Though some of the younger women wear the standard western jeans and tee-shirt, most still go for the salouva, the traditional, brightly coloured costume which may or may not be worn with a headscarf, or kishali. This gives rise to a certain confusion in schools, where under French law, ‘ostentatious religious symbols’ are forbidden. These include the Muslim headscarf, which in its dull, dark, austere version is banned, but worn as a bright, colourful kishali is tolerated. The reasoning seems to be that colours = moderate, dull = extreme. There may well be an element of truth in that – the minority of extremists who every so often feel they have to kill other people don’t seem to think that life is much to be enjoyed. Given the choice, I certainly prefer a religion that glows. But as making colours a criterion in the statute book might prove tricky, the confusion is likely to continue.

In the meantime, Mayotte celebrated its tradition recently with a salouva competition.

IMG_3825 IMG_3824

Contestants await to parade in their salouva

If you feel like scrolling through the 160 photos, you can vote here for your favourite:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.839038216135217.1073742082.164350783603967&type=1