Merci à Clifford Ng Kwet Chan le poète qui n’est plus


By Sister Cécile Leung

First I would like to offer my sympathy to Nicolas, Chloé and to all those grieving the loss of a brother, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a friend, a colleague, the poet, the long time contributor to Mauritius Times, the engaged citizen who cared enough to share in black and white relentlessly ideas and hopes.

In the late 1950s, more than sixty decades ago a young Father Henri Souchon launched the movement of ‘L’Entité mauricienne’ calling to unite the diverse ethnic communities of the island. Clifford Ng Kwet Chan, then a young professional, was invited to voice the concerns and hopes of the Chinese community on the podium where representatives of all communities were given the opportunity to share ideas.

This is how I came to know Clifford as one of those driven by the altruistic ambition of making the world a better place. I left Mauritius in the early sixties and missed the opportunity to follow more closely Clifford’s subsequent interventions and engagement on social issues. Clifford became known not only as “l’homme engagé” but also as a poet.

Only some French terms can express my perception of Clifford the poet: c’est “l’homme au cœur pur” ; his vision of any given event takes him to its “essence” which he would then succinctly put into words. For example, when Nicolas came into the life of Clifford and Thérèse his spouse, he wrote about the “point” which made possible the formation of the triangle. Thanks to Clifford I came to understand that poetry is not a play with words but rather a distillation of the meaning of life. It takes a certain asceticism and purity of the mind and heart to touch this core.

On Saturday July 1st, barely a month before he left us, I had the privilege of paying Clifford a visit, he was seated and received me with his usual kindness. As I had voiced some concerns in our conversation, his last words in Hakka were conciliatory, in translation: ‘don’t worry, I will see to it.’ He was still the visionary looking “beyond” with a steady gaze.

Clifford, you are now reunited with Thérèse, the other point of the triangle, you will surely watch over the point left behind. Rest In Peace “en contemplant l’Absolu, l’Essence de toute vie dont tu as essayé d’en saisir et de nous partager quelques bribes durant ta longue vie de poète”. Merci de nous avoir entraînés dans ton sillage, aujourd’hui le cœur endolori il nous reste à regarder plus haut et te voir dans l’étoile de la nuit en faisant notre deuil.”

Sister Cécile Leung, Associate Professor Emerita
Chicago, USA

Clifford Ng Kwet Chan – 1932-2023

Kwet Chan! A name that will shine forever!

Teacher, philosopher, and gentleman,

A true person all respect and admire!

A confirmed patriot that did his share

And a lot more, with his heart, mind, and pen

For the independence of this country!

We had at Neptune Club in Chinatown

A jolly band of hopeful young fellows

That dreamt of rebuilding the world.

We looked to him the teacher and poet,

Steeped in the lore, values and traditions

Of Hakkas in Meixian, to show the way!

Man of duty! Man of Honour! We thank

Heaven and Earth that brought you in our lives!

Joseph Tsang Mang Kin




Mauritius Times joins Sister Cécile Leung and Joseph Tsang Man Kin to express our deepest condolences to Nicolas, son of Clifford Ng Kwet Chan, and other relatives during this time of grief.

Educator and poet, Clifford had been a long-time contributor to this paper, and he was particularly well known for his usually short and succinct poems which were published in our columns as from the early 1960s. Societal issues, education, Chinese culture and traditions, life in Mauritius were the subjects he wrote about quite often to the delight of so many of our readers.

Wilhelm von Humboldt said that the aim of existence is a distillation of the widest possible experience of life into wisdom. There’s only one summit in life – to have taken the measure in feeling of everything human.

Thank you, Clifford for having taken the full measure of human experience and for passing on the wisdom to us through your poems.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 28 July 2023

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