Everything you want to know about Madagascar and never dared to ask

Ra…what? Ra…etc, July 29, 2012

Yesterday I read this in Dagens Nyheter :

Harinelina Rakotondramana (instead of Rakotodramanana) heter den tyngdlyftare i 48-kilosklassen från Madagaskar som har det längsta namnet i OS. Namnet har totalt 26 bokstaver.

Translation: The weight-lifter in 48-kilo category Harinelina Rakotondramanana from Madagascar has the longest name of all the participants of the Olympic Games. Total of 26 letters. DN Sport 28 July, 2012

What? That´s it? Nothing about the team, about the people? I did not know if I should cry or bite. I admit that it is quite unusual information, but who cares about the names of the Malagasy athletes. Why didn´t the journalist pick up the shortest name instead, probably from China. Why am I so upset?

I guess I felt irritated, because it reminded me of embarrassing moments in my childhood, especially at school. Every year in September, when I was back to school I would endure the teachers´ surprise or sarcasm discovering my name and the very little efforts they made to learn how to spell my name. Most of them did not even try to pronounce it and just called me by my first name. I got so used to it that I made people´s life easier responding: ”You can call me Kanto, doesn´t matter.” In fact, it did matter. My name is the essence of Me. My identity.

Do you know what people say when they meet a Malagasy person and do not want to pronounce his/her name? They say: “Hello, Mr or Mrs. Ra…etc”, Malagasy names always beginning with “Ra”… (meaning “the”, or “Andrian”… (meaning “Lord”). I can understand how difficult it is to pronounce Malagasy words, but I think you should always try and have a good laugh afterwards. It is just a matter of respect. Respect for a human being. Respect for someone´s culture.

And yes, Malagasy names are extremely long. It´s true. At least, they mean something. Check my names:

–       Kanto means Grace and Beauty

–       Hajanaina means Honor and Life

–       Zafimananintany means granddaughter of the Landowner

–       Andriantsalama (my family name) means Healthy Lord

and if I add Rickman, my Swedish name, it makes a total of 50 LETTERS ! I beat Harinelina Rakotondramanana. They should give ME the gold medal just for that.


Here is the best tongue twister: My ancestor´s name

King Andrianampoinimerinandriantsimitoviaminandriampajaka, shortened to Andrinampoinimerina !


If you want to give a Malagasy name to your child:

Malagasy names with the French translation

Latest results from London 2012


Where I Was Born January 22, 2012

Filed under: Antananarivo,Nyheter — madakanto @ 1:16 am
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This is just a very short post inviting you to click on those links, to my photo blog, where I just posted new pictures from Antananarivo.

ARKanto´s Homepage

Album : Tana by Car


An Ode to My Family January 2, 2012

Filed under: Antananarivo,Family,Nyheter — madakanto @ 7:07 pm
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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.

my father´s fatherMy father´s mother


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?

Article about Madagascar on

A general presentation of Madagascar: 


Madagascar Finally There ! November 12, 2011

Filed under: Antananarivo,Restips — madakanto @ 6:50 pm
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I apologize for not writing so often, but I have just been so overwhelmed by a thousand things I had to do and no time for myself. But, I´m back and we are going backwards. I´m going to tell you more about all the things that happened to us last summer, our long journey and adventures.

I have not been in Madagascar for 13 years. The last time I was there was in 1998. You may wonder why I waited so long. The main reasons are a very busy life and a bad financials. How many times did I tell myself, “now you´re going! “, but it never happened and if our friend Nathalie had not invited us to her birthday party we would never have taken the step.

This year was also quite special because I travelled with my husband instead of my parents and my sister. And for the first time I was a real tourist. I did not stay the whole time in the capital Antananarivo. I actually had a very limited point of view on the situation. We did pay a visit at my relatives, but we had much more time to see around and discover.

How did it go? It was a very eventful trip. Every day came with its surprises and adventures. We rented a four-wheel drive car with the driver, or took a plane when the distances were too long and the roads too bad. The most frightening thing was to drive the car on a raft to cross the river. But the driver did it with panache. Having a chauffeur and taking a plane gave me that strange feeling of being spoiled in comparison with the residents. You should never take something for granted in Madagascar. Not everyone has a house with a bathroom. At my aunt´s, there was only running water in the evening and hot water is definitely a luxury.
Anyway, we had a lot of fun, when we were with our friends, discovered so many new things and met wonderful people. I even spoke German on a small paradise island Ile aux Nattes.

But I will tell you more very soon. Here am I doing some shopping.


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