Maloya was born of the plantations. It constituted a way of escape and symbolised the desire for freedom. This desire for freedom is materialised in the flexibility of improvisation in both the music and dance. Therefore, the musician or dancer is not confined to any particular expectation in melody or phrase and can develop and expand the rhythm and movement according to however they feel at that particular moment. The liberating aspect of this improvisational element to Maloya represents a challenge to me as both a teacher and researcher. Thus in teaching Maloya I have a commitment to pass on my embodied knowledge with some parameters to understanding how to be skilled in the improvisation, but it is also incumbent on me not to interfere too much in the dancer's improvisation process.
Maloya is traditionally improvised. The lyrical themes range from migration, spiritual and genealogical ancestry, slavery and resistance but also to the beauty of the island and the everyday of sharing and living together in the tropics. Muriel argued that Maloya embodies the spirit of the Réunionese population; the people embrace it as a powerful symbol of freedom not only from colonial oppression but also from the challenges of life on an isolated tropical island. An exploration of Maloya is an investigation of slavery, ritual and the belief systems of La Réunion. This paper discussed Muriel's PhD research into Maloya including the auto-ethnographic accounts of dancing the dance of La Réunion.
Maloya is a unique communication system, which consequently alienated the French colonial authorities and landowners was unofficially banned until 1981. Accordingly, the importance of acknowledging the past and preserving the cultural heritage by passing this artform from one generation to the next is significant. In 2009 maloya has been recognized by UNESCO as pertaining to have intangible cultural heritage value. At a glance, the dance invites the body parts to converse with each other similarly to the different ethnicities in contact on the plantation. The music, rich of various intertwined influences, uses complex rhythms with call and response patterns and melodic intervals. This paper discussed how this powerful symbol of freedom from colonial oppression is a celebration of multicultural contemporary 'postcolonial' La Réunion, and how performing Maloya dance and music means to perform Réunionese identity/identities.
‘Postcolonial’ La Réunion – an overseas département and region of France – was host to extensive plantation activities in the 17th Century. It became a land of exile to slaves and indentured labourers and as such saw various forms of violence. Displaced essentially from Madagascar, Africa, and then India and China, most labourers experienced a degree of social, physical, sexual, verbal, psychological and spiritual/religious violence. The diverse mix of ethnicities, cultures and customs led to an intercultural dialogue, which in turn gave birth to the Réunionese Créole culture and in particular Maloya. Maloya is the Réunionese emblematic dance and music art form gathering of ancestry, slavery, resistance and resilience. This paper discussed Muriel's research into Maloya as a tool of intercultural dialogue. She argued that Maloya can be used as a tool to develop intercultural understanding by allowing the practitioner to loosen their cultural ties, open an intercultural dialogue, acknowledge and reconnect with their identity/identities.
Renegotiation of identity in Australia through the Reunionese art form: Maloya. In N. Belford & R. Lahiri-Roy (Eds.). Asian Women, Identity and Migration: Experiences of transnational women of Indian origin/heritage (1st ed.). UK: Routledge
This chapter explores my experiences and negotiation of Muriel's identities as a female Maloya artist/researcher/teacher. From the theoretical lenses of a ‘third space’, ‘hybridity’ and ‘bastardy’. She explores how Maloya is part of a constructed space in negotiating her identity. Migration to Australia was an opportunity to scrutinise and question her identities as she was born in Réunion island. Being in Australia, she reviews her stance in relation to her performance and teaching of Maloya as part of her cultural heritage and identity. The discussion examines the negotiation of her identity through Maloya as embodied through a ‘third space’ yet with changes.