A REEL Good Time: How music brought the arts and fishing community together in Seychelles

‘...It’s a good initiative for the community and it’s really nice to hear some folk music.’ says Elza, an attendee of the Stories from the Sea Traditional Jam Session. A gathering of more than 150 people, locals and visitors alike, had congregated at Anse Poules Bleues at the turf of the Baie Lazare Fishermen’s Association in late January 2019. The reason: to see and listen to a production of fishing-themed songs performed by Baie Lazare fishermen and Folk music duo, Belshazzar’s Feast.

The arts and fishing industry in the Seychelles do not typically intersect. And if they do, it’s not usually in the manner as the Stories from the Sea project. Despite a lack of precedence, The Meraki Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the British High Commission Victoria boldly launched the Stories of the Sea project. The team effort between the two saw collaborations established between various stakeholders and preengagement sessions to perfect the sound for the Traditional Jam Session. The project also saw renowned

Seychellois singer and songwriter, David André, assisting the Baie Lazare fishermen with polishing their sound. The result was a delightful musical performance that blended Seychelles’ traditional songs with that of English folk tunes and saw the moment that the art and fishing industry harmonized.

‘We are providing a creative space for fishermen to share their stories and craft using music and storytelling. We aim to showcase what a powerful medium art can be in merging cultural practices , bringing people together and recording stories of historical value!’ said Alexandria Faure, the Chairperson of The Meraki Foundation.

Indeed, the arts in multiple forms (and not just musical forms!) are weaved into the project. The pre-engagement sessions, the Traditional Jam Session and other aspects of the project were filmed and is currently being produced into a mini-series by SeyIT.tv, an independent project under The Meraki Foundation. The project also concluded with a photography exhibition at the British

High Commissioner’s Residence. This use of different art forms and launching of innovative projects by the Meraki Foundation is not unheard of.

The NGO, which champions innovative artistic projects with positive social purpose is known for its successful and inclusive Word Up Open Mic platform for poets and artists alike. However, this is its first major project to create an awareness of the fishing industry and it is not the last.

Going forward, the foundation plans to expand the project and collaborate with fishing groups in other districts all over Seychelles. The aim is to use the medium of art to shed light on the fishing industry as well as advocate for the inclusion of culture and heritage in fishing development.

This article originally appeared on Inside Seychelles (Issue 14): https://issuu.com/seychellesislands/docs/inside_seychelles_issue_14_for_web/14