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Special Reunion Evening - 25th May 2012

The Alliance Française of Port Elizabeth held a Reunion Island evening on the 25th of May.

This cultural evening was enjoyed by those who attended. Many of those who attended had already been to the island and had fond memories of their stay.  Those who had not yet had the opportunity to visit were hoping to be enchanted by this mysterious tropical island. Guests were transported to a world that not only educated, but delighted more than just the senses. Soulful creole music to serenade hearts and interacting with new people of various ages made this evening a success. The focus was not only on music, but on art with an exhibition by artist, Charly Lesquelin from Réunion Island and on culture with a presentation about the island and its culture.

Arriving at the Alliance Française, guests were immediately transported out of the city and into another world. Welcomed by the friendly staff, their attempts at speaking French were appreciated. The art exhibition was displayed in the gallery. The artist, Charly Lesquelin used earthy tones in most of his portraits. As enigmatic as they were, you were still drawn to look at them and ponder the meaning behind each image. For those who value the aesthetics of art, this exhibition was the opportunity to do just that.

This evening was not merely to entertain and experience, but to also learn about the Reunion Islands. Carole Vicent’s well-prepared presentation was a huge success. Ntobeko Qolo, French and Xhosa teacher at the Alliance translated for the non-French speakers. Carole guided her audience on a journey of the tropical island. The presentation included basic information such as language and religion to lesser known facts such as the secrets behind the name of the island. The mysteries of the Volcan de la Fournaise, the food they ate such as Le rougait and Le massale, had the audience hungry for more. At the end, some light hearted moments when videos of kapuera dancing were shown, as well as the architecture of the Cases Creole, where houses were decorated in bright and bold colours. These were somewhat contradictory to those chosen by the artist in the exhibition, but the cultural elements tied in with the entire evening. Throughout this delightful presentation more and more guests arrived and filled the room up to the brim right until Carole's final « Merci ».

In the library a table was set with traditional island delicacies. Not only an informative display but, one cannot have a taste of the Reunion Islands without sampling the traditional cuisine. A tasty feast!

In the courtyard an intimately set up stage and musicians awaited guests with a mélange of serenades and music to liven up the atmosphere. The threat of clouds and raindrops moved the music indoors. The band members were made up of Nino, the cheerful and humble director of the Alliance Française in Maseru, his wife and daughter, and a drummer and guitarist. They played music that invited you to escape with them into the heart of Reunion Island and included songs for those who live on the mountain to cheerful upbeat tunes that resulted in many a smiling face. Not the same genre as Dan Lori' – Bat la min, that had audiences dancing, but perfect rhythmic expressions. From the different tones of their voices and teasing chords of guitar strings, hypnotic drumming and rattle of the shaker, this band can be considered an impeccable master of serenade.

Although, most guests were French speaking and a large majority knew each other, a visiting guest admitted that, « even though I could not speak or understand a word of French, I felt at home because I was welcomed and kindly treated as a part of the family... »

Come rain, come shine the Alliance Française with its theme evening brought Reunion Island into the hearts of many that chilly May evening. We look forward to many more in future...


By Rebecca Oloo

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