Since we are still in the spirit of Holidays, which is the best time for family reunion, I am going to tell you more about my own family and what a Malagasy family usually looks like.
Let me start from the beginning or from two generations backwards. First, my grandparents.
On my father´s side I give you Isidore and Marie-Jeanne who had a daughter and son.
The daughter, my aunt had seven sons, which means luck in the Malagasy culture, because when the sons get married they end up having seven sons and seven daughters. I guess it is partly true, because all my cousins find their right ones and they are all happily married and I when I visit them I always feel surrounded by a huge amount of love. Nevertheless, life did not spare them and they also got through difficult times, but I can say that it did not kill their optimism. Always rebounding.
The son to my grandparents, that is to say my dad, had two daughters, my sister and I. It was quite rare to have only two children in the late 60´s.
On my mother´s side you had Felix and Esther (I love her name), whom I never got to know. My grandfather, who was a Protestant pastor, died when I was a baby and I had already moved to France, when my grandmother passed away. But,…they were very productive. They got three sons and seven daughters and my mum was among the three youngest children. Then, each uncle and aunt got between one and six children. You can easily do the math…I have more than fifty first cousins.
Fifty cousins equal fifty siblings, because the word cousin does not exist in Malagasy.
All cousins are brothers and sisters; the word cousin does not exist in the Malagasy vocabulary. So, when two of my cousins came to France and lived with us, my parents treated them exactly as their own children and my sister and I got two more siblings.
All the children are under the authority of the elders. Parents, aunts, grandparents share the responsibility for the children. There is no such thing as a nuclear family in Madagascar. If a child does not behave, ANY adult, parent or relative who is physically near has the right to tell off. This would be unconceivable in Sweden. If I were to say something to a kid sitting next to me in the tube with its feet lying on the opposite seat, her mother would give me the don´t-you-dare-traumatizing-my-child-look or mind-your-business-look. There is no need to fear such a reaction in Madagascar and I think it is cool.
The most respected people are the oldest, the grandparents and the ancestors. They are listened to vary carefully and everybody tries to learn from them. It is not like in the Northern and Western countries were they are just considered as used garbage that do not have anything left to bring to the society.
At a second place come parents and especially mothers. Madagascar is a matriarchal society. I never thought of that before, but it suddenly struck me that all the ladies in my family inclusive myself are the decision makers in our respective homes. But in a nice and subtle way of course…I cannot say I do not like it!
In those very sad times of scandalous retirement homes it would be great to get inspired by other cultures – see in Asia and Africa – who treat their elder citizens as human beings and not just as juicy bank accounts.
Read this, an interesting chronicle by Jonas Gardell
Vad bäger en kissblöja? http://www.expressen.se/kultur/1.2623645/vad-vager-en-kissbloja
Article about Madagascar on www.africa.com
A general presentation of Madagascar: http://www.africa.com/madagascar