Culture / Religion
As of the August 2012 census, there were 212,645 people living in Mayotte. According to the 2007 census, 63.5% of the people living in Mayotte were born in Mayotte, 4.8% were born in the rest of the French Republic (either metropolitan France or overseas France except Mayotte), 28.3% were immigrants from the Comoros, 2.6% were immigrants from Madagascar, and the remaining 0.8% came from other countries.
Most of the inhabitants of the island are Comorians. The Comorians are a blend of settlers from many areas: Iranian traders, mainland Africans, Arabs and Malagasy. Comorian communities can also be found in other parts of the Comoros chain as well as in Madagascar.
The main religion in Mayotte is Islam, with 97% of the population Muslim and 3% Christian.
The main religious minority, Roman Catholicism, has no proper diocese but is served, together with the Comoros, by a missionary jurisdiction, the Apostolic Vicariate of Comoros Archipelago.
French is the only official language of Mayotte. It is the language used for administration and the school system. It is the language most used on television and radio as well as in commercial announcements and billboards. In spite of this, knowledge of French in Mayotte is lower than in any other part of France. The native languages of Mayotte are:
- Shimaore, a dialect of the Comorian language (a close relative of Swahili)
- Kibushi, a western dialect of the Malagasy language (the language of Madagascar) heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic
- Kiantalaotsi, another western dialect of the Malagasy language also heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic
Kibushi is spoken in the south and north-west of Mayotte, while Shimaore is spoken elsewhere.
Besides French, other non-indigenous languages are also present in Mayotte:
- Arabic, essentially learned in the Quranic schools
- various dialects of the Comorian language essentially imported by immigrants who have arrived in Mayotte since 1974: Shindzwani (the dialect of Anjouan, or Nzwani), Shingazidja (the dialect of Grande Comore, or Ngazidja), and Shimwali (the dialect of Mohéli, or Mwali).
Shingazidja and Shimwali on the one hand and Shimaore on the other hand are generally mutually intelligible. Shindzwani and Shimaore are perfectly mutually intelligible.
At the 2007 census, 63.2% of people 14 years and older reported that they could speak French (although 87.1% of those whose age was 14 to 19 years old reported that they could speak it, whereas only 19.6% of those aged 65 and older reported that they could speak it). 93.8% of the population whose age was 14 or older reported that they could speak one of the local languages of Mayotte (Shimaore, Kibushi, Kiantalaotsi, or any of the Comorian dialects, which the census included in the 'local languages'). 6.2% of the population aged 14 and older reported that they spoke none of the local languages and could speak only French.
A survey was conducted by the French Ministry of National Education in 2006 among pupils registered in CM2 (equivalent to fifth grade in the US and Year 6 in England and Wales). Questions were asked regarding the languages spoken by the pupils as well as the languages spoken by their parents. According to the survey, the ranking of mother tongues was the following (ranked by number of first language speakers in the total population; note that percentages add up to more than 100% because some people are natively bilingual):
- Shimaore: 55.1%
- Shindzwani: 22.3%
- Kibushi: 13.6%
- Shingazidja: 7.9%
- French: 1.4%
- Shimwali: 0.8%
- Arabic: 0.4%
- Kiantalaotsi: 0.2%
- Other: 0.4%
When also counting second language speakers (e.g. someone whose mother tongue is Shimaore but who also speaks French as a second language) then the ranking became:
- Shimaore: 88.3%
- French: 56.9%
- Shindzwani: 35.2%
- Kibushi: 28.8%
- Shingazidja: 13.9%
- Arabic: 10.8%
- Shimwali: 2.6%
- Kiantalaotsi: 0.9%
- Other: 1.2%
With the mandatory schooling of children and the economic development both implemented by the French central state, the French language has progressed significantly on Mayotte in recent years. The survey conducted by the Ministry of National Education showed that while first and second language speakers of French represented 56.9% of the population in general, this figure was only 37.7% for the parents of CM2 pupils, but reached 97.0% for the CM2 pupils themselves (whose age is between 10 and 14 in general).
Nowadays there are instances of families speaking only French to their children in the hope of helping their social advancement. With French schooling and French language television, many young people turn to French or use many French words when speaking Shimaore and Kibushi, leading some to fear that these native languages of Mayotte could either disappear or become some sort of French-based creole.
Approximately 26% of the adult population, and five times as many women as men, report entering trance states in which they believe they are possessed by certain identifiable spirits (Djinns) who maintain stable and coherent identities from one possession to the next.