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.
from Lexique population (pdf document)
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
Tarika- BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/26f6d5b4-137f-451d-aadc-74ae204dc5b3