Again les Surfs, If I Had a Hammer.
I forgot to tell you. The reason why they´re here on this blog is because they were Malagasy.
Again les Surfs, If I Had a Hammer.
I forgot to tell you. The reason why they´re here on this blog is because they were Malagasy.
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
I just came back from two weeks´ vacation in Provence and Paris. For once, it is nice to play the tourist in my homeland although I feel, with years going by, less and less French.
Coming back to the Riviera was really cool, considering that I had not been there since I was ten years old. Cannes, Nice and all the cities by the Mediterranean Sea did become a showcase for France. Everything is so neat, so clean, so luxurious. Wherever you go it smells money. My husband told me how different it looks now from the 1960´s. Cannes was just a fishermen´s haven then. It lost a lot of its former charm.
There is one thing I did not remember from my younger years. The incredibly hot weather. And humidity. I hated it. As soon as we came out of Nice airport, I could feel the air and started sweating without moving one finger. I got so much accustomed to the Swedish summer, – sunny but dry and always with a little breeze tickling your cheeks –, that the Mediterranean climate was insufferable. I could hardly fall asleep.
Having said that I will not bother you with my temperature issues. I just wanted to show you the proof that Malagasy products are being more and more successful.
Here is the hat I had to buy in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, because the sun was too damn hot. I felt so stupid buying a hat again. I´ve got thousands of them at home. But hey, I had to cover my head.
The second picture was taken in Nice. Arent´they nice? It is amazing how Malagasy craftsmen have improved in making those bags. They look much nicer and last longer that the ones I used to buy. And most of all, everybody loves them!
Of course they are three or four times more expensive than in Madagascar, but at least you won´t need to go there.
And I consoled myself with the thought that I supported the Malagasy ecconomy!
Sometimes I feel really blessed. Maybe I have guardian angels that lead me to the right place and the right persons.
Two months ago, I went to a seminar organized by Stockholm University at the Stockholm Resilience Center. They had invited the very famous lead singer Hanitra Rasoanaivo of the Malagasy band Tarika Be.
I had no idea who she was and that she was coming to Stockholm. I just got the information thanks to a friend, whom I thank eternally. She will certainly recognize herself. After I read the program of the seminar I thought I must be there. I was a little worried not to find the place and to go by myself, but I thought to myself; it is usually when you are alone that you are open to new things and encounters. What a surprise it turned out to be!
I came to the Stockholm Resilience Center forty-five minutes in advance and not really knowing what to do I just sat at a table and started working with my laptop. I could not help listening to the two people sitting next to me. They were preparing their common presentation on Madagascar and they wanted to end it by saying “Misaotra be!” (“Thank you so much” in Malagasy). When I heard them I just looked at them and nodded. “Yes, it was the correct phrase”. The lady said to me with a smile: “I knew you were Malagasy!”
Let me open a parenthesis. Once you have been in Madagascar or met someone from Madagascar, it is very easy to recognize another Malagasy. They can look different, they can be dark or fair skinned, they can look Asian, Indian or African, but their eyes never lie. Malagasy eyes are very special. This is why the lady could tell. Parenthesis closed.
Hanitra Rasoanaivo came finally. I was just keeping myself busy. I did not think she would see me, but after she had greeted the organizers, she came to me and presented herself. She asked me in Malagasy if I were from Madagascar and I responded “Yes!” in my clumsy Malagasy. I told her that it would be easier to speak in French. I always feel so stupid not being able to make a conversation in a fluent Malagasy.
She was so nice and friendly that I felt like I knew her for ages. Then the other young lady I had named joined us. Her name was Maria and she also started to ask me lots of things about me. She was very surprised to hear me speaking Swedish. Hey, nobody´s perfect. I must be the only one who can be proud of speaking several foreign languages and forgetting my own mother tongue!
As I already said I felt really lucky, because those kinds of encounters would never have happened in France. There are thousands of Malagasy immigrants living there and I would just be a number among the others. But here in Stockholm I don´t have to make any effort. People just come to me! It was the same thing when Kilema was in Stockholm. I have become like the involuntary ambassador for my homeland. Despite the distance, I have never been so closer to my origins. I moved to Sweden for I wanted to be free from all the French or Malagasy traditions, but now that I am here, I realize that those traditions are a part of me and I kind of like it. I try to see the good in both sides.
The main topics of the seminar were Madagascar, music and sustainability. Hanitra told us about how it all began for her, about her childhood and her life as an international artist and her life back to Madagascar. She founded the Antshow Cultural center to promote Malagasy arts and artists as well as exchanges between artists from all over the world. Since she is deeply engaged in environmental issues, she uses her skills as a songwriter to address the government and the Malagasy people.
Among the speakers there were also a few Swedish scientists who had spent several months studying agriculture, demographics and the traditions of the people in the South of Madagascar.
When the seminar was finished the party started and I am so glad I stayed, because I made new acquaintances. The first person I met was a Malagasy man who had come too late and missed the seminar. He already knew Hanitra, so he went to her greeted her. Then he saw me and asked me, as it often happens when a Malagasy meets another Malagasy, if I came from Madagascar. Yes, I did! His name was Sylvain and after a few minutes talking we found out that we had a common friend and that I had met his wife on another occasion. It´s a small world.
Hanitra, Maria the woman I named before and a “tall and white girl with white hair” joined the conversation. I had so much fun. Maria and Anna the tall told us about the way the ethnic group Antandroy (see farther south on the map below) communicated. Very peculiar and so far away from the Merina, the ethnic group whom I belong to.
Let me explain. When I write “tall and white girl with white hair” I do not mean to insult the girl in question, but it is just, as I was told, the way the Antandroy people called her for real when she lived among them. For them, it was so exotic and so new to meet such a woman. But, Anna told us that they gradually got accustomed to her.
I have never had so much fun that day talking with people I barely knew and I felt so happy.
Before I left we exchanged our visit cards. Anna wants to speak Malagasy again. And I hope I will get to know Hanitra better next time she comes to Stockholm.
To be followed…
Stockholm Resilience Center: http://www.stockholmresilience.org/
Tarika Be my space: http://www.myspace.com/tarikab
Antshow Madagascar: http://www.facebook.com/antshow.madagascar
About Hanitra Rasoanaivo:
Tarika’s Hanitra Rasoanaivo talks with Michal Shapiro about music, politics and life in Madagascar: http://www.rootsworld.com/rw/feature/hanitra99.html
Tarika Be – Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarika_%28musical_group%29
Tarika on Afrisson: http://www.afrisson.com/Tarika-842.html
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.
* Don´t know what vazaha means ? Check this blog: http://vazahagasy.wordpress.com/about/vazaha-gasy-explained/
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: http://www.justafrica.se/
Last Saturday we had a wonderful time at the International Library where the non-profit organisation Afrikultur and the City of Stockholm organised a Family Day on Madagascar. First of all, I didn’t want to go there, because I had so much homework, but then I thought, it would have been so stupid to miss it. And I am so glad I did!
When we arrived, my husband and I were warmly welcomed by the musicians and by the members of the organisation. And the world being so small, we found out that one of them, Klara, worked at the Balettakademien where she teaches African Dance and at the Dance Museum, which is my husband’s favourite hanging-out place being a former dancer. He knows everybody there.
They had a nice little café with lovely homemade pastries, warm and cold drinks and even some specialties from Madagascar, like really good sambosas (like the Indian samosas, but with a Madagascan touch).
Then I had an interesting conversation with another woman, – Susanna was her name if I remember well -, who had adopted two boys from Madagascar. Later on Malagasy-looking woman came to me and we discovered that we had a Malagasy friend in common in Stockholm. At least, we were six Malagasy in the room!
After about an hour, Kilema and his brother Nesta started playing. Oh my, it was so much fun! I hard heard about him before, but I had never heard them live. I had listened to them at a Justin Vali´s concert, but this was different. It was so nice to see and listen to them in that very small room, without microphone and to hear the natural sounds of all his handmade instruments. I guess you all know that Madagascar is a very poor land, one of the poorest in the world indeed and because or thanks to poverty, Malagasy people have become the World Champions in inventing and recycling things. For instance, one of Kilema’s percussion instruments was made of a tin can.
I won´t bother you with all the details, but it was just incredible how Kilema and his brother interacted with the public. He told us stories, made us sing in Malagasy and in the end we even danced a typical Madagascan dance. But to me, the most moving moment was when he sang in Swedish. It was meant as a present to us.
After the concert we had a very last talk with them, exchanged visit cards and even discovered that they new one of my cousins in Madagascar. The world is really small. I might visit them in Spain one day!
So, if you want to know more about the band click here: www.kilema.com
Kilema will be playing at World-mix festival in Växjö on November 4, Smålandsposten:
One of the most famous valiha players: Justin Vali, http://www.justinvali.fr/
What is a valiha?
Qu´est ce-qu´une valiha ? http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valiha
What is a Kabosy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabosy
International Library Stockholm: Special Day on Madagascar: http://biblioteket.se/default.asp?id=224065
Afrikultur Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/AFRIKULTUR/139038479457314?sk=wall
Kilema will be playing at the World Mix Festival in Växjö: www.worldmix.nu
Kilema on My Space: http://www.myspace.com/kilema2
KILEMA on You Tube:
A Mix Music Review from 2009:
There are so many reasons why I am starting this blog, but I guess one of them is just because I was born there and I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings regarding this unknown and beautiful place. It is a fact, except some people who felt in love with the country right away when they visited it or scientifical researchers studying nature, nobody knows anything about Madagascar. I think it is sad, considering that it is the fourth largest island in the world, after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo. People know more about Mauritius and La Reunion, simply because they are under British and French governance.
Second of all, I have just spent a month there and since we came back home, my friends kept asking us thousands of questions. One of my neighbours, who used to spend a lot of time in Africa, was so curious that she invited us for dinner and urged me to write a book. Well, no book, but a blog. Now I can tell everybody at the same time. And you may read it whenever you feel like it.
Moreover, this blog will come as a complement of my photo blog ARKanto, where you can look at my first photo albums as well as my other pictures taken in Sweden, France and Norway.
Being one of the very few Malagasy living in Sweden I also feel like it is a duty to me to write about Madagascar, so that people get a better knowledge and understanding of the culture. There are more than lemurs to discover!
Another extremely important reason for this blog is my support to Espérance Marianina Madagascar, my cousin´s non-profit organisation, which aims at reducing malnutrition in rural areas and helps prevent children from quitting school. I will try to keep you informed on the organisation´s work and how the children are doing.
So, how often will you have the pleasure of reading this blog? I was hoping to send a post at least once a week, but I have not decided yet which day it would be, for I have another blog – All The Things I Am – where I write mostly about my life as a non-Swede in Sweden. A lot of writing it will be! I suppose the end of the week would be the best time for me. We´ll see!
As I said previously, I would only talk about things and people who are related to Madagascar. So, I will start by telling you about a great music band which came to Stockholm last week that is to say Kilema.