by Farzeen Heesambee
Farzeen Heesambee is an MRes English Literature student at NTU and an aspiring writer. She is currently in the process of writing a historical novel on the struggles of Creole women and indentured labourers and awaiting the publication of a short story in an anthology. She has a particular interest in postcolonialism and world literature.
Memories of Lakaz Kreol
No castle built
would ever be as beautiful
As the memories a colonial house holds.
No fortified roof
can ever replace a dripping tin roof.
No cyclone fear
was ever so vividly revered.
No toilet need
could replace that of a night in heed.
No luxurious kitchen
can outdo an outside kitchen.
No washing machine,
could ever imagine all the stories.
No newbuilt house
can ever carry the aesthetic of a house
with blessings only a Lakaz Kreol has.
Lakaz Kreol is the Mauritian name given to colonial houses built by the French during the period 1715-1810 of when they colonised Mauritius. Those houses are reminiscent of the colonial past and history of Mauritius and are now in danger of disappearing. Many have turned into ruins and most have been replaced with concrete-builds in the quest for modernisation.
The architectural design of the colonial houses makes them one of a kind; made mainly with a rocky base and wood and with some metal main structure, their symmetrical designs were a beauty compared to no other. They consisted of a few wooden rooms with no toilet or kitchen facilities as toilets and kitchens were communal areas that had to be shared. Lakaz Kreol did not have any water facility, hence all taps were outside; in the courtyard for washing purposes, in an outdoor kitchen, in the outdoor bathroom and outdoor toilet, often called ‘latrine’. The houses also consisted of a living room called ‘Veranda’ which was an almost opened space very similar to today’s conservatory.
Colonial houses eventually became expensive to maintain as they were made of timber and had already surpassed their life-expectancy, and many Mauritians replaced them with concrete-builts.
Lakaz Kreol holds a sentimental value for many Mauritians who grew up in one or who had relatives living in one.
During the cyclone seasons, when the gusty winds blew, the houses would shake, and the tin roofs would flap; often men would be seen on the roof trying to add a few nails before an incumbent cyclone. As with all tin houses, the rain pattering on the metal ceiling would give many sleepless nights until it quietened.
The washing area was often busy, as there would be more than one family sharing the Lakaz Kreol and the women would gather there for the latest gossip. The house was partitioned into sections, so each family would have their own privacy and often most ended up with a bedroom and one living room which would cater for a family of 4 or more.
The courtyard was the joy of any child, children would play outdoors all day, climbing mango trees, playing with rocks, pretending to have an outdoor kitchen, or playing pretend school with all the other children on the compound.
Nights were a special treat as all senses would be on alert in the eventuality of a fire, robbery or the event of a supernatural being knocking on the door according to the many existing myths on the island. Children were advised to use a potty instead of adventuring to the outside toilet in the middle of the night, which was a very scary experience were one to come across a ‘lougarou’ or a ‘dayin’.
Lakaz Kreol is symbol of a happy time when communities came together for those Creoles who experienced it. Its connection with the Empires is a legacy that is fully accepted without any ill-feeling by today’s Mauritians.
The poem is dedicated to the memories and time spent in my Grandmother’s Lakaz Kreol and growing up in this community-based environment.
Latham, Laura. New York Times. (2013) <https://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/greathomesanddestinations/11iht-remauritius11.html> [accessed 12 Feb 2021]
 a lougarou is a half human half wolf creature that roams the night and is said to be evil.
 a dayin- is the witch with long hair whose feet are said to be twisted in the opposite direction or are invisible.