Celebrating our national show!


14-June-2013

They have taken many forms and shapes and numerous symbols have acquired age long significance of celebrations. Flowers of the many seasons from the meadows and the valleys of origin of our species have been associated with rebirth, or have heralded the arrival of a new period. These manifestly unique products of the plant world have literally celebrated the close of one era and the arrival of another. Flowers then have been symbolic expressions of celebrations of joy and love and renewed expectations.

We live in times of widespread publicity and promotional gimmicks as for example: Say it with flowers. In sophisticated societies the arrival of a new addition to the family has been celebrated with a bouquet of gay and bright flowers which have even gained gender significance: pink for the baby girl and yellow for the baby boy (if only we had blue roses).

Within our very own society we have tirelessly and almost inadvertently accompanied the one we love and cherish to the grave with a bouquet; not to celebrate his or her departure but rather as an expression of love knowing that we have only the memories of the departed to cherish.

As we come of age, or at least we would want to believe so, we see the creeping in of what some of our culture bound traditionalists would consider as foreign traits to our local culture in the excitement to celebrate traditional and sometimes mundane occasions.

Bouquets of flowers are presented at the door step of our hosts abode in honouring an invitation for a mostly happy occasion which calls for celebration. We take it to the crib of the new born and we drop the singular flower stem onto the casket as the latter comes to rest at the bottom of the earthly grave in celebration of love, affection and good memories of the departed loved one. Our airwaves are fraught with ever so more publicity that convinces us that the sophisticated rose spells millions when offered in the celebration of love. So then it has become fashionable now for the young Seychellois to present a red rose to the loved ones in celebration of earthly love. 

Celebrations in Seychellois society are not a recent manifestation. A comprehensive analysis of national literature on Seychellois culture and tradition might not enlighten us to any extent on this topic. We would come to the eventual realisation that we are searching in the wrong place. We might be inspired that we can find meaningful guidance if we only raise our head high as if searching for the writing on the walls of the blue heaven. 

The motto of our coat of arms: Finis Coronat Opus (Hard work is crowned) has been urging us to celebrate hard work ever since it was conceived. Did we ever perceive it that way? But to know the average bon vivant Seychellois as he is must have quietly set the pace much before those Latin words were inscribed as our guiding motto. He has wittingly stretched the limits of celebrations permitted by our national coat of arms motto. He has been creative in his interpretation of it. He reasoned that the motto of our national coat of arms provided him only with the official cue and since then he has literally never looked back so as not to miss an occasion to pay tribute to this urge to celebrate.

So then early in the plantation economy days celebrations in Seychelles style were the order of Saturday night, celebrating the culmination of the toil and sweat of the six working day week. Nights of rough moutya dancing with sometimes gross lyrics and social commentary concealed the desire for liberation from the plights of a full week of arduous labour. These resounded in breathless echoes, crowning it all by the many impregnations hence bestowing us with many cultural traits which are here indeed to stay but now sustained somewhat in different formats. How then could we have furthered this culture of celebration of hard work? Well we can do that by celebrating every occasion which calls for a celebration!

Celebrating we did. And so it was at the beginning of the 90s. The horticultural festival brought a flowery dimension to the earlier national celebrations of the month of June and in keeping with our own tradition, what better way to do it than with flowers? The then Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with the President’s Office staged the first flower show as part of the recently promoted Horticultural Festival with one show at the Camion Hall (Codevar building) and the following year at the lobby of the International Conference Centre of Seychelles. The shows were coordinated by the former horticulturalist of President’s Office who emphasised on quality exhibits. Hobbyists-horticulture adherents, flower lovers, both commercial and amateurs, along with some mere front garden poterers derived much joy and thrills when asked to participate. And participate they did.

This sudden national urge to celebrate the national day of June 18 compelled the National Day Celebrations Committee latterly known as the National Celebrations Committee to propose and subsequently organise the National Agricultural and Horticultural Show (NAHS) to regroup the entirety of the potential national participants in the horticultural – an agricultural domains. The Ministry of Agriculture then executed the wish of the said committee but of course with its financial backing. The first show was opened to the public in 1995 in a grand outdoor ceremony attended by national dignitaries, including the Head of State as part of the national celebrations to commemorate the institution of the third republic.

The NAHS was characterised by both competitive and non-competitive exhibitions with the former organised into sections. There was much emphasis on the quality of the exhibits. The public sector participants, comprising mostly of government ministries, displayed their toil and sweat along with their goods and services within the non-competitive sections while private participants manifested in highly competitive domains. The competitive domains were organised according to subjects ranging from an assortment of dainty and sweet scented floral arrangements to farmish subjects in the form of fat odorous specimens of pigs and cows. An elaborate jury was constituted for each competitive section and judged according to pre-defined criteria. Winning exhibits benefited either from a first, second or third prize and non-winning exhibitors benefited with a participatory certificate. Private sector sponsors supported the NAHS with special prizes as well as star prizes which kept improving for each subsequent show. 

The initial four show editions provided much learning grounds to the average competitive sections participants and for all subsequent show it was a fierce battle of quality exhibits among participants and a frantic search for additional exhibition space by the organisers.

By the 14 and last show of the NAHS in 2008, there were 13 competitive sections with 190 contested competitive categories. The last show cost the organisers in excess of R800,000 while shortage of space and the singular depiction of a sector had become an issue. This provided the motivation to the National Celebrations Committee to moot for a more all- encompassing show.

So was born the first National Show in 2010 to celebrate the coming into being of the third republic. By then it must have been at least some two decades since a semblance of a national show was last staged and surely not since the launch of the third republic in 1993. It was opportune then in 2010 and in the wake of the NAHS to reflect on national achievements in a more holistic manner.
 
Foreign exchange hardships of the 1990s and 2000s were by then a thing of the past and economic boom had spurred many new economic activities. Old entrepreneurs consolidated themselves further while the new and aspiring ones were wide-eyed to explore new and little-known entrepreneurial domains.

There was an auspicious air of relief and sighing, if not a gratifying feeling when the national leaders viewed the 2010 National Show at the Roche Caïman sports complex. Some 100 or so local ventures as companies, groups, associations and individuals had not only exhibited their wares but were enticing sales of their goods and services from automobiles to sombreros all in eye-pleasing displays. Three days of real fiesta for the young and the not-so- young to be mesmerised by the most recent progress in IT, the local music bands doing their favourite pieces, the wonderland of nature and the farm personalities such as Mother Hen, Brer Rabbit and Mickey the Pig in live specimens. Mum had to console the tearful young daughter that after all the chicken in plastic wrap in the supermarket freezer is not made in a factory.

The stage is set for an encounter of the second kind and the promise is that it is going to be better and bigger.
Did you say that it all started with a display of a few floral stems from the backyard?

I don’t believe you! They were too mangy to celebrate such a grand national occasion.
The show will be open from 10am to 9pm on Sunday June 16, from 9am to 11pm on Monday June 17 and from 9am to 4pm on Tuesday June 18.
                    
Antoine-Marie Moustache
Member of the National Celebrations Organising Committee


 

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