Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France consisting of a main island, Grande-Terre (or Mahoré), a smaller island, Petite-Terre (or Pamanzi), and several islets around these two. The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, namely between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique.
Intermarriage and bilingualism are common, and group membership in Mayotte is defined according to principles of residence, ownership, and participation in ceremonial exchange networks rather than more abstract ascriptive criteria. Mayotte is an open society; despite the great cultural heterogeneity there is a vigorously affirmed social unity, based on Islam and a common loyalty to the island as an indivisible whole.
Villagers in Mayotte identify three main traditions (or disciplines) of non-tacit knowledge that together are concerned with matters we might, with the cautions expressed in the previous chapter, call 'religion' and 'medicine' and for each of which there are publicly recognized practitioners. These three traditions are 'ilm fakihi,'concerned with the study, transmission, and interpretation of sacred Islamic texts and commentaries upon them; 'ilim dunia,' concerned with cosmological and related medical texts and their implications for individual and collective affairs; and texts and their implications for individual and collective affairs; and 'ilim ny lulu,' concerned both with treating people troubled by spirits and with utilizing the knowledge and power that spirits provide.
The population grew from 45,000 in 1975 to 131,000 in 1997, with half the people being under age 20. The population of Mamoudzou is 32,000. In 1841, the island had three thousand inhabitants; twenty years later, there were twelve thousand. These people were mostly Mahorans, African slaves and bondsmen, Malagasy, and Comoreans from other islands in the archipelago. There were also a few dozen Creoles, some Indian merchants and European planters, and a few Arabs.
The name "Mayotte" comes from the Swahili word for Mahore, Maote . The name "Mahore" appears in the French adjective mahorais . Mahore identity is based on Comorian, Malagasy, French, and Creole cultural traits. Comorian culture is prevalent on Mayotte, the fourth island in the archipelago, which also has cultural characteristics of its own.
A majority of Mahorais voted against independence in a 1974 referendum, and when Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane unilaterally announced the independence of all four islands, Mayotte’s leaders asked France for its intervention. French Foreign Legionnaires and a couple of warships were sent to patrol the territory, and the Comoros’ transition to independence went ahead without Mayotte.
Mamoudzou is the capital and largest city. The land is gently rolling, with some mountains of ancient volcanic origin and deep ravines. The climate is tropical, with a hot and humid rainy season and a cooler dry season. Nearly all Muslim, the population is of mixed Arab, African, and Malagasy origin.
French is the official language, but Mahorian, a Swahili dialect, is widely spoken. The economy is largely agricultural and includes livestock raising and fishing. Mayotte exports perfume oils, vanilla, copra, coconuts, coffee, and cinnamon. Much of its food, as well as machinery, equipment, metals, and chemicals is imported, mainly from France. Part of the Comoro Islands, it became a French possession in 1843. When the Comoros became an independent republic in 1975, Mayotte decided to remain French and the following year it voted to become a territorial collectivity. In 2000 voters approved increased autonomy for Mayotte, which subsequently became a departmental collectivity. Mayotte is still claimed by the Comoros.
France gained colonial control over Mayotte in 1843. It is the most populous of the four Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean off Mozambique in Africa. Mayotte chose to remain a French dependency rather than join the other Comoran islands in declaring independence in 1975. Comoros laid claim to Mayotte shortly after independence and continues to do so. In July 2000, 70% of voters opted to accept greater autonomy but to remain a part of France.
Mayotte was invaded in the 19th century by the Sakalava from the island of Madagascar. The island came under the rule of a Malagasy chief, Andriansouli, and in 1843 he ceded Dzaoudzi to the French, who were looking for a naval base in the western Indian Ocean. The island was then dominated by Creole planters from Reunion, whose descendants continue to exert some political influence.
During the mid-19th-century ‘scramble for Africa’, Sultan Adriansouli, who had gained quite a few enemies during his rise to power, formed an accord ceding the island to the French in exchange for protection from his rivals. The official transfer of Mayotte took place in May 1843 and the island was transformed first from a sultanate into a haven for French planters and slaveholders, and then into a full colony of France.