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


Antsirabe The Red Island´s Coldest Place February 27, 2012

Visiting Antsirabe was on of our planned activities, firstly because it is one of the few touristic places in Madagascar, secondly because I´ve got family there. And more importantly, we were invited to a wedding. The daughter of a cousin got married and we were part of it. I was so looking forward to being there and I was glad my husband would experience a genuine Malagasy wedding. More about the wedding in the next post.

The last time I was there was in 1998 visiting my family. This time I was accompanied by my husband and a very good friend of his, Tony, coming from Australia. We only had an afternoon to see the town, so we passed on the typically touristic places and the market and decided to make a tour on a pousse-pousse. The worst thing was to escape from the pousse-pousse owners who were waiting for us to come out of our hotel and rushing at us the minute we were out. They did their best to force us to choose their vehicle. Madness! We were saved by our helpful chauffeur who scolded them from being so rude.


Our room at the hotel Les Camélias  was neat and clean. Unfortunately, the Malagasy had never heard of isolation. Antsirabe is situated in the centre of the island in the high mountains. In July, it´s winter. We were freezing all the time. It was the only place during my whole vacation where I did not sleep although I had three layers of clothes and lied under two wool blankets. It did not help.

However, it did not keep me from taking pictures, so I photographed everything around. More flowers from the hotel´s garden, the people on the streets, the pousse-pousse  owners pulling us heavy westerners and the craftsmen doing an extraordinary job.


When nobody saw me I would take out my camera and shoot. Otherwise, I would keep a low profile, but it was not so easy when you are flanked by two white men. Two vazahas *. Everybody looks at you all the time. And most of the time it is unbearable.


People were even more interested in me than in my husband. I could read a lot of questions on their faces. Where does this Malagasy looking girl come from? Is she rich? Of course she is since she managed to come here by plane . Where did she find those two vazahas ? What did she do to “get” them? And so on.

Despite a feeling of general discomfort, it was really enjoyable to discover the town by walking or by sitting in a pousse-pousse. This would have been impossible in Antananarivo.

Interesting links

Information on Antsirabe´s pousse-pousse (French)

* Don´t know what vazaha means ? Check this blog:

If you live in Stockholm and want to buy those little cars, you can buy them at this great little shop specialized in products from Africa:


Espérance Marianina Still Hoping for More January 30, 2012

Filed under: Children,Family,Non-Profit,Nyheter — madakanto @ 9:23 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Today I will be the spkokeswoman for Espérance Marianina Madagascar. You already know that I care a lot about children and especially about those from Madagascar.
As I promised to report regularly on the situation, it is time for me now to share with you the latest achievements of EMM.

Madagascar is very well known for its endemic fauna and flora but also for its poverty. Kids who live in the countryside do not have as many opportunities than kids from the city and their future cannot be more uncertain. When my cousin Arlette Ramiliarijaona discovered Marianina and its children she suddenly had a good reason for fighting and helping her homeland. Me too by the same occasion.

Espérance Marianina Madagascar has been working for already four years and it has been a great success indeed.
One of the most important goals was to supply the children of Marianina with nourishing and balanced meals allowing them to grow both physically and intellectually. Before the canteen opened in 2006 the truancy rate had reached almost 50% during the hot season (December until March). But this year the rate decreased to 8%.

Here are some of the things they accomplished:

–  opened a school canteen which serves meals from December 1st to late April (wet/hot season)
–  constructed a dining hall that can be used as a multipurpose hall when they do not need the canteen
–  purchased furniture for the dining hall
–  planted hundreds of fruit trees and started growing vegetables

A few words from Arlette:

“Hope. Without hope it is impossible for us and our wonderful volunteers to continue fighting for the children´s well-being. No hope, no success. And this is an everyday work.
But, we could not have done so much without the help and compassion of our generous donors and I would like to thank you again and send you all my gratitude for your valuable support.”

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If you have ANY  QUESTION or information or if you want to send money, Please contact me.



An Ode to My Family January 2, 2012

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

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: 


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