Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Creole Mauritian with an Olive Skin coming to Durban

In the chapter, A Creole Mauritian with an Olive Skin coming to Durban, Marie Saramandif writes about how significant ‘race’ became for her when she moved to Durban from her home in Mauritius. Like most other Mauritians she identifies herself as Creole or mixed, and she is not very sure about her ‘racial’ lineage. ‘Race’, and skin colour are, she says, of little significance in Mauritius. This contrasts to her experiences in Durban. While socialising with people from different ‘races’ she finds that they are either black or white or Indian and never a mixture.

She also finds that with her olive skin, French accent, straight brown hair and medium brown eyes, she presents something of an enigma to South Africans who classify her differently, depending on their own identity. White friends construct her as Southern European (who can get a great summer ‘tan’), black friends think she might be coloured, and Indian friends see her as an 'exotic' Asian, emphasising her lightness (compared with them). By constructing her in these ways, people from different ‘races’ claiming her as one of their own, allowing her to socialise with greater ease with them.

Saramandif, Marie. 'A Creole Mauritian with an Olive Skin coming to Durban', in Rob Pattman and Sultan Khan (Eds.), Undressing Durban (Durban: Madiba Press, 2007), pp. 85-87.