From Mayotte to Seychelles through the debaa”

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The University of Seychelles and l’Alliance Française des Seychelles organised an intercultural exchange day with a cultural group from the French Department of Mayotte on Thursday 5th November 2019, at the University of Seychelles. 

The main objective of the exchange was to learn more about the ‘Debaa’ of Mayotte and the women who sing it. 

On the programme for the day was a round table discussion on women and their roles in society, especially in the conservation and transmission of culture. The discussion focused on women in Seychelles and Mayotte; common projects.  this was followed by a cultural show by the cultural troupe of Mayotte, featuring the debaa.

What is the debaa?

The debaa or deba is a traditional dance of the island of Mayotte reserved exclusively for women. Mixing music and songs, the deba can have a religious meaning, be practiced as a distraction or be like a competition between several groups of women from different villages.

The deba is performed by the women of the village: dressed in identical outfits and adorned with their finest adornments, they engage in a choreographed dance in order to reproduce the throbbing movements of the waves of the ocean.

This dance is accompanied by songs, in Arabic language and from sacred books, recalling most often the birth of the Prophet. The form is similar to a response: a soloist sings the melody, before being imitated by a chorus. This to the rhythms of percussion instruments such as the tambourine or the timpani. The deba can be performed as a praise for pilgrims returning from Mecca, during the period of Ramadan as an expiatory rite, as a reward to God, for Mawlid, or finally as a simple competition between women from different villages.

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Mrs. Penda Choppy

Director of CLCRI

Department of Education, Languages and Media