24 August 2007

History under cardboard boxes

[8/18/07 Dear Mom, Dad and Ben, There is not a lot of emphasis placed on cultural history here. So I was pleased to find a temporary one-room museum – pitched like a tent on the sidewalk -- that told the story of Madagascar’s kings and queens, before the French occupation.

The square building was painted to look like a castle, but its pitched roof was made of flattened cardboard boxes and the walls were planks of wood, painted on the outside to look like stone. Inside were pictures of royalty, dressed to look rather European, and with the lighting in their portraits displayed as such that they almost looked Caucasian. I wonder if that was intentional – if they lighter skin color has always been favorable, or a symbol of power here.

My favorite royal Malagasy is the one with the longest name (54 letters … no suggestions from spellcheck): Andrianampoinimerinandriantsimitoviaminandriampanjaka. My least favorite is Queen Ranavalona I, who made her subjects, accused of wrongdoing, eat a poisonous shrub to determine their guilt or innocence. She also flung people off a cliff behind her palace. Really nice lady. Her palace burned down in 1995 and they are rebuilding it now. Hopefully you won’t see supposed witches flying off the cliffs once the scaffolding is peeled away and the building is fully functional again. Love, John]

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