778 PEOPLE (Tino), News on Sunday 27 May 2011 .pdf

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News on Sunday, May 27 - June 2, 2011 |


The Rasta who does not
believe in Selassie
Louis Patrick Thérèse,
better known as Tino,
is convinced that he
saw God in his dreams
– first as Jesus Christ
three times and
second in the guise of
a blinding light.
“Subsequently my
manner of speaking
and everything about
me changed”, he tells
me in his makeshift
and colourful house in
Dilo Pouri, a squatter
settlement in Le


Born in Notre Dame, Tino was raised
by his mother in Grande Rivière, near
Port Louis, after his parents separated.
When their house was destroyed by a
cyclone in the late 60s, the family (which
included Tino’s grandmother) relocated
to the inner-city of Pointe aux Sables.
Problems with his stepfather forced Tino
to move in with his biological father and
stepmother in Crève Coeur. “I was well
looked after by my Hindu stepmother”,
he says.
At 16, Tino moved back to Pointe aux
Sables to live with his mother and grandmother. He started doing a series of
menial jobs (as lorry helper, charcoal
maker, fisherman, diver, etc), the only jobs
he could find and do as he never went to
school and was never taught how to read
and write. The last job he did before settling down in Dilo Pouri was to carry
fruits and vegetables to Curepipe and
Vacoas. By now he was 28 and while he

was in Surinam, “mon gagne benediction révélation nous Créateur” (I was
blessed with our Creator’s revelation), he
says. He soon found a place to live in the
deprived area of Dilo Pouri where, he
says, “30 to 40 people moved to gradually. These people came in from disadvantaged inner-cities. God’s revelation
has taught me to live peacefully with
other human beings. We are all the children of God and here we all live in harmony as a small community.” This community is not made up of a cross-section
of Mauritian squatters, but it exists as a

Photos © Saleem Chotoye

“The Creator is a
jealous God. He does
not like it when we
adore others and not
Him. Selassie, Marley,
etc have brought
confusion. That is
why I have removed
all posters of Bob
Marley which I used
to have here.”

harmonious community whose members share the values and culture of
The choice of Dilo Pouri is not entirely
accidental either. Le Morne, now adopted by UNESCO as part of the cultural
heritage of mankind, is a centre-piece in
the history of slavery in Mauritius, the
embodiment of the last freed slaves of
African descent “Here we hear the vibration of our ancestors”, Tino says adding
that he plays an instrument (the
“djambe”) which is not unlike one which
was used by “mo bann zanset” (my
ancestors). Asked if he does this to earn
his living, he replies in the negative pointing out that “what has come to me free
[meaning from God], I have to share with
others free of charge”. But I still wanted
to know how Tino and his seemingly
stress-free, relaxed and serene community survive. “We grow vegetables and
fish for our own consumption but also
to sell to markets in the area. We do handicrafts and design other artefacts which
are influenced by our African roots and
culture and we market them in the country.” It has not been easy for them. They
had to keep on fighting with the authorities that they only wanted to live in
peace and asked to be left alone. Some of
them have since been granted property
rights. “I have obtained my contract [ie
title deeds to a piece of land fronting the
sea]”, Tino says. Sitting comfortably in
his quiet sanctuary, this man, the father of
seven children (five girls and two boys),

proclaims: “Here Rasta artists come to
find inspiration – at least those who
understand that we are all God’s children. We are no different to (say) the
seven colours of the Chamarel, which is
also the work of the Creator.”
Division among Rastafarians is something that perturbs Tino, and he says he
is in the process of writing a book with
the help of his young wife Charlene,
“who went to school and studied up to
Form V”. At this point, Tino calls in
Charlene, who appears with her two
baby sons. “The five girls I already had
before meeting Charlene in Case Noyale.
She has given me two boys. Now I know
that my generation will live for a long
time, and I thank my Creator for this.”
Charlene reads out some of Tino’s
ideas (what she has carefully written
down in a copybook) and at times
explains them to me. “When Mortimo
Planno, the famous drummer of Cuban
origin who taught Bob Marley, presented Emperor Haile Selassie as our
saviour when the latter visited Jamaica
in 1966, many Rastafarians started venerating the Ethiopian Emperor. But
Selassie was no God but a human being
like us.” Tino says that while he likes Bob
Marley as an artist, he does not like him
as someone who perpetuated Selassie’s
legacy in Jamaica and beyond. “The
Creator is a jealous God. He does not
like it when we adore others and not
Him. Selassie, Marley, etc have brought
confusion. That is why I have removed
all posters of Bob Marley which I used to
have here.” For Tino, Kaya is more
important than Marley. “His songs
touch our hearts. He sacrificed himself
to make his contribution. In our small
island, we must have respect for him.
Yet we do not do anything special to
honour his memory.” Tino also pays tribute to Berger Agathe who suffered
much the same fate as Kaya. [Note:
Agathe was killed during the riots in
Roche Bois after Kaya’s death in police
custody in 1999].

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