Khal Torabully

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Khal Torabully is a Mauritian and French poet, who has coined the concept of "coolitude".[citation needed] Born in Mauritius in 1956, in the capital city Port Louis, his father was a Trinidadian sailor and his mother was a descendant of migrants from India and Malaya.

Early life[edit]

As Mauritian History was made of various migratory waves, Torabully was soon immersed in Creole, English, French, and to a lesser degree, in Bhojpuri, Urdu, Arabic and Chinese languages (citation needed). The cultural mosaic prevalent on the island accounts for his interest in diversity and the discourse of identity in history, as no nation was existent in this country made of several communities. Torabully started writing poetry at a very early age,[citation needed] steadily explored the virtualities of the encounter between cultures, histories and imaginaries. Branching from coolie trade or indenture, the semiologist started his articulations by exploring and moving beyond créolité or creoleness, antillanité, indianity or indignity and posited his work between those theories and creolization.[1]


Khal Torabully left for Lyon in 1976, to study at the University of Lyon II. Here he explored language with a need to reinterpret if profoundly, mixing exile with a desire to reconcile peoples across borders, through a "coral imaginary". After studies in Comparative Literature, Torabully wrote a PhD thesis in Semiology of Poetics with Michel Cusin. He was highly interested in T. S. Eliot, Jacques Lacan, Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva, among others he met in his doctoral researches on intertextuality.

His poetry was to bear the imprint of those various theories, though it remained sensual, espousing the inner rhythms of the sea and the vision of meeting others akin to the "aesthetic shock" experimented by Victor Segalen. The poet framed many of his poetic texts with a distance from exotic views in which many encapsulated their experience of otherness. In his early Fausse-île I and II, Torabully made a work of reinterpretation and started a quest for a poetic language mixing the music of various languages in an idiom imagined as "fossils of language".

His major work, Cale-d'étoiles-Coolitude gave new twists to the French language, subverting and enriching it with Indian, Creole and Scandinavian sources. He argued for the centrality of the seavoyage in the indentured migration, going against the taboo of the kala pani or dark seas. In so doing, the poet framed his transcultural vision in the concept of what he termed "coolitude."

Khal Torabully has won several literary awards, among which [Lettres-Frontière] (Switzerland), [Prix du Salon du Livre Insulaire] (France) and [Prix Missives] (France).


  • Pic Pic, Nomade d’une île,1996.
  • La traboule des vagues, multibroadcast Tele Lyon Metropole.
  • Malcolm de Chazal, (52’), portrait of an artist, with France Telecom.
  • Portraits de Mémoire en Gironde, France, 2010.
  • The Maritime Memory of the Arabs, Oman TV, Chamarel Films, France 2001.


  • Best script, MFDC, for centenary of Cinema, 1996.
  • Best Director Short Feature Film at Zanzibar International Film Festival, 1998.
  • Best Producer London Videographer’s Guilds 97.
  • Laureate of Beaumarchais Foundation (Paris), 2OOO.
  • Golden Award 2010 for Arab Media and Television Professionals, best documentary film, International Festival of Cairo, for The Maritime Memory of the Arabs, presented by Oman TV.


His poetics of coolitude was defined as the articulation of the imaginaries of mosaic India and other human and cultural spaces. Starting from the derogatory word "coolie", which he revitalised, Torabully extended it to geographical and cultural migrants throughout the world. His poetry voiced the need of relation between the descendants of the emancipated slaves and the indentured, allowing interplay with other cultures, thus clearly constructed far from essentialism or an exclusive "nostalgia of the origins".

Devised to fill a gap in postmodern and postcolonial theories, coolitude addresses anthropologists, aestheticians, historians, literary scholars and multicultural analysts to grasp the complexity of inter and transcultural exchanges in the modern world. What he terms the "coral imaginary" is a metaphor to this vision of the world. Torabully proposes an exchange between cultures and imaginaries on an egalitarian basis, underlining the necessity of muffles histories to engage in shared narratives and a mosaic identity construction. Coolitude proposed an inclusive perspective, namely, to foster memorial and historical negotiations between slavery and indenture or coolie trade, which helped in the UNESCO policies in establishing two sites in Mauritius, the Aapravasi Ghat, dedicated to the memory of coolie trade and Le Morne, dedicated to the memory of slavery. This was contained in the premises of the International Indentured Labour Route, established in 2014, headed initially by Khal Torabully , with the collaboration of Doudou Diene, Moussa Ali Iye, former directors of the Slavery Routes and Routes of dialogues of UNESCO, missioned by Raju Mohit, Mahen Utchanah, directors of the Aapravasi Ghat.[2][3]

The poet of négritude Aimé Césaire acclaimed his work "as containing all his humanity".[citation needed] The Martinican writer Raphaël Confiant described his texts as having " a sovereign precision", and hailed Torabully as "the greatest poet of créolité".[4]

Torabully is the author of 20 poetry books, the first egalitarian French dictionary and of an essay co-authored with Marina Carter and has won several awards in France, Switzerland and Mauritius.[5][6]



  • Fausse-île I. Port-Louis: Babel, 1981.
  • Fausse-île II. Lyon: Université Lumière (Lyon II), 1986.
  • Appels d'archipels, ou le livre des miroirs. Port-Louis: Babel, 1987.
  • Le Printemps des ombres (Azalées éditions, 1991)
  • Petite Anthologie de la poésie mauricienne (Poésie-Rencontres, 1991)
  • Cale d'étoiles-Coolitude (Azalées éditions, 1992), avec des toiles de S. H. Raza.
  • Kot sa parol la? Rode parole (Le Printemps, 1995), poèmes en créole, traduction française.
  • Du code au codex (Éditions Thierry Lambert, 1996)
  • Palabre à parole, préface de Werner Lambersy, (Le Bruit des autres, 1996)
  • Dialogue de l'eau et du sel (Le Bruit des autres, 1998) ISBN 2-909468-62-3
  • L'Ombre rouge des gazelles (Paroles d'Aube, 1998)
  • Chair corail: fragments coolies, préface de Raphaël Confiant, (Ibis rouge, 1999)
  • Roulis sur le Malecon, carnet de voyage cubain (L'Harmattan, 1999) ISBN 2-7384-8194-9
  • Paroles entre une mère et son enfant fusillé (Les éditions du mont Popey, 2002)
  • La cendre des mots: Après l'incendie de la bibliothèque de Bagdad, textes sur l'indicible (ouvrage collectif, L'Harmattan 2003) ISBN 2-7475-5358-2
  • Mes Afriques, mes ivoires, préface de Tanella Boni, (L'Harmattan, 2004) ISBN 2-7475-6413-4
  • Arbres et Anabase (Ibis rouge, 2005) ISBN 2-84450-271-7
  • Cahier d'un retour impossible au pays natal, editions K'A, 2009.
  • Voices from the Aapravasi Ghat,Indentured imaginaries, collection of poems, Foreword by K. Purryag, President of the Republic of Mauritius, published on 2 November 2013,
  • Coupeuses d'Azur, Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund, Mauritius, 2014.


  • Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labour Diaspora (with Marina Carter, Anthem Press, London, 2002) ISBN 1-84331-003-1


  • Dictionnaire francophone de poche, LE POUVOIR DES MOTS SUR LE MOUVOIR DES PEAUX, La Passe du vent, Grigny, 2007.


  1. ^ décembre 2006, Témoignages re / 9 (9 December 2006). "Autour du premier Festival international de la Créolité". Témoignages.RE - (in French). Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  2. ^ Pratx, Philippe. "Article : 10 MAI 2006/2007 : UN ENGAGEMENT POUR LES MÉMOIRES". Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  3. ^ "Potomitan - 180ème anniversaire de l'arrivée des coolies à Maurice". Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Potomitan - 180ème anniversaire de l'arrivée des coolies à Maurice". Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Ouessant 2000 (rappel) : Prix du Livre Insulaire". Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Khal Torabully". Auteurs en Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

External links[edit]

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