Gramatikal a Léwoz: Codes and protocol within Gwoka

July is usually a very eventful month in the Gwoka world. It is indeed the month when the Gwoka Festival invades the streets, the beaches and the air of the little town of Sainte-Anne in Guadeloupe. This year, the festival was a very interesting mix between conferences, debates, dance and music. Zil’oka was there, of course, and eager to share the experience with you.

Amongst all the festivities, the pic-nique at the Geoffroys was of particular interest to us. it was indeed a great occasion for Zil’oka to get an update on the ongoing procedure to inscribe Gwoka on the UNESCO ‘s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This endeavour, initiated by the association Rèpriz, Centre for Traditional and Popular Music and Dances, sparked a great controversy, as many did not understand or see the benefits of such a step. However, after one year of debates, idea-sharing and hard work, the application has finally been completed and sent to the UNESCO on March 26th 2012.

This is great news. This Guadeloupian “Matrimony” is being protected and regarded as a precious heritage to be passed on to the generations to come. We are now far from the days when “respectable” members of the community could not perform Gwoka. This change of attitude has been recorded by Marie-Helena Laumuno, who on that day launched her book Et le gwoka s’est enraciné en Guadeloupe (And Gwoka has been rooted in Guadeloupe).

The current concern is now to device appropriate methods to transmit the Gwoka protocol. It was argued that if Gwoka had undeniably become popular and was attracting people from various social, economical and ethnic backgrounds, many schools were failing to teach the “gramatikal a Lewoz”, which is the structure, the codes, the meaning of Gwoka. In the video below, Mr. Dorville is explaining what is meant by the expression Gramatikal a lewoz.

The inscription of Gwoka on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity could be a very good way to preserve and pass on these codes to the generations to come. We are not saying that these codes are the beginning and the end of Gwoka; we are just suggesting that the gramatikal a lewoz must be used as a platform for one’s creativity, imagination and self-expression in Gwoka. At Zil’oka, we are committed to it.


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