Reconnecting with My Various Cultural Roots

My dear English-speaking visitors,

sorry for this long time writing mostly French posts – if anything at all…! – on this blog of mine.

I happen to be at a stage in my life and in my personal evolution when it seems more things from my past need to come out and become conscious in me, so that they become properly integrated in my being.

Expression in my mother-tongue, French, is at the moment a spontaneous and irrepressible part of that process.

And the kind of culture that automatically comes up in me together with this French language is of course also the French culture, all this informal mass of innumerable references that has grown in me since early childhood: ways of speaking, of thinking, of behaving, of reacting, memories of bits of French History, of French Literature – including its roots still carried by the Greek and Latin quotes learned and remembered by any well-educated French person of my generation – plus all those more popular things such as the old songs and stories and fairy-tales and legends of France… and the very landscapes and characteristic architectural shapes that form the geographical background to all that culture and remains in your very bones.

Whatever your own culture, you too have the equivalent same mass of references within you, all full of meaning for you, but that simply wouldn’t mean anything to me, wouldn’t evoke any emotion out of me and would leave me flat cold. I know that very well because I have been participating for years in a few Forums on the Net, in which the other participants are mostly North-Americans, for example, or at least Anglo-Saxons: their own culture speaks through them constantly, but most of the time unconsciously, that is, it’s so natural to them that they don’t ever realize it – but I simply don’t know what they are talking about!…

And all this is but normal: these are their roots, relevant and understandable and indispensable for them in their life there, but without any relevance for me as a French person, or for anyone else from yet any other culture.

This is why I’m not going to inflict on you my French culture either –  even just through tentative translations – all the more because in my own individual case it is not even entirely the ‘regular’ French culture I am a product of, but a special mixture of that with the local culture in the little far-away (but nevertheless French) island called Martinique, out there near Cuba and Jamaica, that my family happens to originate from since many generations.

Although I myself wasn’t born there and never lived there, this specific Martinique background has been present in my life at all stages and has separated me to some extent from the ‘regular’ French persons I happen to have met and associated with at all times, while I know practically no other person from Martinique except the relatives and friends of my parents and grand-parents who visited them now and then in France in the old days of my childhood and youth, when my parents too spent some time there with us the two girls, in between work time for my father as a French Government official in the parts of Africa colonized by France.

Of course to have lived most of my early years in that Africa that was also a part of our original roots as people from Martinique, has been a special experience for me, although again I could feel the difference separating me from the people born and living there as real Africans, which I was not.

All this under the skin of an apparently fully ‘white’ young girl and adult, yet totally used to the diversity in outer appearance between all of us members of the very same family. This utter diversity all seemed perfectly normal to me as a child, and probably protected me from any racist tendency that could have grown in me towards the African people working with my parents, or the younger ones studying together with me in the French ‘Lycees’ (secondary schools) my sister and I attended in the various towns my father was sent to over the years.

Racism was so far from my mind, even as a young adult, that it came as a big shock to me when, luckily in two separate occasions only, a few persons, seeing my mixed origins in my parents, manifested some racist reactions towards me, which left me totally flabbergasted and my world shaken in its very foundations.

Now a much older being, recently I have started looking back at my life and wondering how different it would have been, had I been more visibly the person of mixed origins that I am,

a Creole from Martinique. Have I been hiding all my life under this white skin and this light brown, almost blonde hair? Or were these the outer signs of the numerous lifetimes also lived in France – or sometimes Italy – in other historical periods, outer signs which helped me keep my deep inner connection with Europe, and the vaster relationship to the world that it entailed, instead of feeling spontaneously just as a relatively insignificant person from a relatively unimportant little island in the Caribbean Sea?…

It is as if in me so many parts of this planet, so many lands and cultures of this Earth, were trying to come consciously together at last, as so many various but complementary facets of our world’s population finding at last their harmony and unity…

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. donsalmon
    Feb 09, 2015 @ 14:07:19

    Thanks Bhaga. I was wondering where the English speaking Bhaga was:>)

    I appreciate your comments about people on the net having their posts filled with unconscious assumptions. I don’t’ know if what I’m going to say has any meaning for you as I’m going to make a comment about different cultures here in the states.

    I’m noticing more and more as I live in the Southern US (about 14 years now) how many of my cultural assumptions are different from those around me (well, there’s lots of transplanted northerners too).

    So I can only imagine what it must be like for you – living in India – with your Caribbean/African roots – filtering through the Tamil/European/American influences.

    thanks for sharing this part of your life. Looking forward to hearing more about the cells! (American, Tamilian, Caribbean, African, European, Indonesian, or even Martian and Venusian:>))

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    • Bhaga
      Feb 10, 2015 @ 03:48:13

      LOL…! You left out my proper French roots in the mix of my origins!!! And yet it is the biggest influence on me culturally in this lifetime’s hodgepodge, the main identity to which all the rest is added… After more than forty years in India, I find I miss the French landscapes and countryside so much, with its villages and each their little church somewhere at the centre…
      I intended this post especially for you, dear Don, my especially faithful and appreciative English/American-speaking visitor, so I am glad that you did respond as I hoped you would, and with your usual sense of humor as well as understanding.
      I’ll definitely still write in English from time to time, but this was a warning, apology and explanation for the period of mostly French posts that is just passed, plus the other similar period that is likely to follow… Please bear with me during that time of relative estrangement!
      With a big smile to you,🙂

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  2. wright
    Feb 09, 2015 @ 22:13:58

    Pas simple de comprendre avec la traduction Google, je reviendrai lire plus longuement. Juste un commentaire personnel qui concerne le lieu de notre enfance : Je suis née en Algérie (pendant la guerre de l’indépendance) , puis j’ai vécu trois belles années en Martinique, de 5 à 8 ans, j’en garde un souvenir très fort, c’est un lieu qui m’a marquée, alors que je n’ai aucun souvenir de l’Algérie, et des souvenirs confus du retour en France à 8 ans. Étrange la mémoire….

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    • Bhaga
      Feb 10, 2015 @ 04:44:44

      Tiens! Bonjour, Fabienne Flore… Merci pour ce partage de souvenirs vecus dans les memes contrees! Et as-tu donc par la suite choisi, ou non, la Nouvelle Caledonie pour y vivre? Je l’imagine assez similaire a la Martinique justement, est-ce que je me trompe???
      Moi, c’est a huit ans, et pendant trois mois seulement, que j’ai connu physiquement cette Martinique dont venait toute ma famille. Je n’y suis jamais retournee depuis, ayant choisi une fois jeune adulte de vivre a Auroville au lieu de demander un poste (j’etais jeune prof) en Martinique justement, comme j’etais tentee de le faire a cause de mes souvenirs eblouis et heureux des plages et des baignades la-bas… plus le grand delire fabuleux du Carnaval tel que peut le vivre une fillette de huit ans!…
      Quant a Alger, j’y suis juste nee, et j’y ai passe les six premiers mois de mon existence, qui ont correspondu avec les derniers mois de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, dont une partie s’est disputee en Algerie, ce qui y a amene mon pere, mobilise a ce moment-la; ma mere a bien sur suivi avec ma soeur ainee, et moi j’ai choisi ce lieu-la pour venir au monde une nouvelle fois… Je ne m’en rappelle strictement rien consciemment.

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      • fabienne
        Feb 10, 2015 @ 05:51:38

        Ce sont mes parents qui nous ont amenés en Nouvelle-Calédonie, j’avais 12 ans.
        On ne peut pas dire que c’est similaire à la Martinique c’est autre chose à plusieurs niveaux.

        Tu as ce truc des îles Bhagga, je pourrais pas t’expliquer, simplement que je “l’entends” dans le chant de ta voix.
        C’est peut-être autre chose aussi, je ne sais pas, je sais juste que tu as ce truc des îles que j’avais imputé au fait que tu es une française expatriée.

        Je suis passée par Alger, mais je suis née à Tebessa, une ville proche du désert.
        Juste née aussi (père militaire charentais, mobilisé à ce moment là et mère infirmière bretonne) le père était pour la guerre et la mère recousait les bobos et Dieu sait s’il y en avait
        Par contre après, mon père a renié la France et les décisions du Général Gaulle pour rejoindre un mouvement non-indépendantiste et les ennuis ont commencé.
        J’avais trois ans de retour en France et je parlai uniquement l’arabe, depuis tout est oublié.
        Mais la Martinique, je me souviens les plages et les baignades et aussi le rire des antillais, la joie de vivre…

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  3. fabienne
    Feb 10, 2015 @ 05:54:35

    Je m’exprime en Français, mais je lis une traduction en français, le résultat n’est pas formidable.

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    • Bhaga
      Feb 20, 2015 @ 07:44:45

      J’ai mis du temps a te repondre, mais mieux vaut tard que jamais… J’ai vraiment apprecie ce commentaire spontane si vrai, a propos des Martiniquais:”Le rire des Antillais, leur joie de vivre…” C’est tout a fait ca!🙂

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      • Bhaga
        Feb 21, 2015 @ 13:56:40

        J’ai deja ecrit d’ailleurs a ce sujet, non seulement des textes, mais des chansons, dont carrement des biguines, qui sont l’expression justement de cette joie de vivre!!!

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  4. fabienne
    Feb 21, 2015 @ 21:22:16

    Oh… Merci pour cette joie que tu transmets là, précisément, dans ces quelques lignes !!

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