Creole

Creole

Creole, Krio, M􀀁etis, Mestico, and Colored are terms that refer to the peoples of mixed-race ancestry in various parts of Africa depending on the language of the colonial power, French, English, or Portu-guese. In the case of Sierra Leone, Krio (English mixed with local languages) is also the language for 98 percent of its peo-ple, though only 300,000 or 5 percent are actually descendants of freed slaves brought by the British to establish Free-town in 1787. Numbers of Creole com-munities vary greatly. There are about 500,000 (2009 estimate) people on the Cape Verde Islands, of which 71 percent are of mixed ancestry. The Mesticos in Angola and Mozambique number over 600,000.

The Cape Coloreds number 4 million, or 10 percent of South Africa’s population.Creole peoples originated with the first European encounters in Africa at the trade stations established along the Atlantic coast. The Portuguese were the first and arrived on the coast of Senegal in 1444, and in 1462, they established themselves on the uninhabited Cape Verde Islands, bringing slaves from Africa as laborers. The Portuguese established trading cen-ters on the Senegalese coast, such as Rufisque and Portudal, which remained under the control of African kings.

The Luso-African or Lanc¸ados (mixed African and Portuguese ancestry) population began as well as the spread of Catholicism. Later, under the French, a Franco-African com-munity developed called M􀀁etis, important in the commercial life of St. Louis and later Gor􀀁ee. French trade interests in Senegal were in the hands of the signares or grand women. In 1652, the Dutch established the Cape Colony at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, and in 1658, the first ships with slaves from Dahomey and Angola arrived.

Slaves from Mozambique, Mada-gascar, Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka, including a substantial minority of Mus-lims, came to the Cape. With the expansion of the Cape Colony into the interior, local Khoikhoi (Khoisan) were forced into indentured servitude. Dutch was the common language between these various peoples, and intermarriage between the whites and their slaves and freedmen evolved into a special community by the middle of the 18th century. As the historian Leonard Thompson notes, “As a result of these relationships, the ‘black’ population of the colony became considerably light-ened, and the ‘white’ population became somewhat darkened” (Thompson, 45).

Both Sierra Leone and its southern neighbor Liberia were created by the British and the Americans as a place where freed slaves could return to Africa. Sierra Leone was founded in 1787 and Liberia in 1822; Sierra Leone remained under British control, but Liberia became independent in 1847, modeling itself after the United States. Settlement of slaves freed from illegal slave ships and of freed American slaves continued until 1865 and the Americo-Liberian identity emer-ged, which today includes 2.5 percent of the total population.

The cultural life of the different com-munities varies a good deal. Most are Christians belonging to the various denominations of the colonizers. M􀀁etis in Senegal, Cape Verdeans, and the Mesticos are Roman Catholic for the most part. In Sen-egal, there is an important Catholic shrine at Popenguine with an annual pilgrimage. Creole in Sierra Leone and Liberia tend to be Protestants and the Cape Coloreds are both Protestant Dutch Reformed Church and Muslim. The Muslim Cape community prefers to be called Cape Malay and do not want to be “lumped” together with the Cape Coloreds.

Creoles have often been better educated than indigenous peoples and have been able to hold positions not only in com-merce,butalsoinpolitics. M􀀁etis from St. Louis and Gor􀀁ee were represented in the national assembly in Paris following the French Revolution. M􀀁etis began to hold the position of mayor of St. Louis in 1778.

In some instances, Creoles, such as the Americo-Liberians, were able to main-tain power over indigenous peoples. Liberia’s president Tubman granted women and indigenous people who owned property the right to vote in 1951. Samuel Doe led a military coup in 1980 that ended Americo-Liberian political dominance.

In South Africa, Coloreds had been given the same rights as whites in the Cape Province, but with the rise to power of the Afrikaner National Party in 1948, Color-eds were subjected to the same apartheid laws as blacks. In 1956, Coloreds lost their right to vote, and in 1962, Coloreds and blacks lost even white representation for them in Parliament.

In 1984, attempts by the South African government allowed Coloreds to vote again but for their own house, separate from the whites. Indians were also allowed their own parliament in an attempt to separate Colored and Indian South Africans from the antiapartheid struggle. Since the end of apartheid, Col-oreds still feel marginalized by the ANC-dominated government, though now they have complete political freedom.

John A. Shoup

Further Reading

Afolayan, Funso. Culture and Customs of South Africa. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Ndege, George. Culture and Customs of Mozambique. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.

Olukoju, Ayodeji Oladimeji. Culture and Cus- toms of Liberia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.

Oyebade, Adebayo. Culture and Customs of Angola. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.