Living Vicariously As A Peripatetic Shutterbug

{ More musings from the Cantankerous Old Mule }

Throwback Thursday: The children of Madagascar

150430 RM23Having lived in Madagascar for close on two years between 2009 and 2011 I knew that the culture ran on a system of ancestral worship, sacrifice and traditions completely foreign to the West. And then I received a little information brochure on the plane to the big island, which explained it in a bit more detail. I was shocked that it was as blatant and accepted as this today still (after all, this was in the official tourism brochure for all in-bound passengers):

150430 RM19“The Malagasy population believes in the existence of invisible spirits lurking around the living. These spirits have been given the power to terrorise people or make them sick; they manifest themselves after dark … choosing as their prey children, especially babies, being such helpless, fragile and easily-impressionable beings. It is believed that their persistent weeping at night, despite their parents’ vain efforts to rock them to sleep, is due to the spirits’ silent and invisible presence … 

Not calling a person beautiful or cute may provide the best precaution to ward off the wandering spirits so they seek other prey elsewhere. The custom of giving the child an unpleasant name, such as an animal (dog, rat, wild cat, owl, wild boar, lemur etc.) originates from the desire to help him. Sometimes even scatological names are used. During his childhood the name ‘Imboasalama’ (the dog in good health) was given to future king Andrianampoinimerina who, with his sister Ralesoka, was the only survivor of a family of six children. 

150430 RM32It was (also) once considered taboo to adorn a child with gold jewellery because this precious metal would be greatly appreciated by the evil spirits who would steal it from the wearer, taking him with them. On the contrary, the child was kept in a state of filth, covered in dust, with a copiously runny nose; in short, sufficient to arouse disgust, so it appears, among the spirits. In some populations of Madagascar … we still brush the child’s face with a paste made from white mud and charcoal, rendering him ugly enough to save his life.”

I’m not making this up; this was in an official tourist brochure! Every day something about this country leaves me shaking my head in disbelief (or wonder.) And, as frustrating as she can be, I do love her and her people – especially the children.

And here I wanted to write paragraph upon paragraph about how precious these children are to me – the dirty-faced, smiling, malnourished children. I wanted to write that no fady (taboo) in the world could stop me smiling at them, stopping to play with them … loving them. But my words, as usual, are incapable.

Every time one of them says hello or giggles at my paying them attention I feel a little more privileged and a little less able to be absorbed in my own issues, needs and greeds. How can I make a difference in their lives? I don’t know, but I’m here …

150430 RM13

150430 RM45

150430 RM44

150430 RM41

150430 RM37P.S. Several of these were shot right outside my house.



4 comments on “Throwback Thursday: The children of Madagascar

  1. madasue
    April 30, 2015

    Yup, I can attest to the fact that my sweet girl is called a “cute, smelly little cat” every week! 🙂 Thankfully for the people I know it is more out of habit now, but it was quite a shock to find out that was what everyone was saying to her with so much love in their hearts!

  2. Geraldine
    April 30, 2015

    Aaawww Robin, these are so cute! Love the last little one with the “My mom rocks!” t-shirt!

  3. Tish
    April 30, 2015

    Queer logic hey! Tragic to be so dominated by the spirit world.

  4. There_Lot
    May 2, 2015

    Must be the one of the strangest things I have ever heard. Lovely photos, although I don’t see the normal smiling faces..wee bit sad, especially the last little guy.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on April 30, 2015 by in Madagascar, People and tagged , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: