Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tana and the three rice fields



Tana is short for Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. It is known as the red island. When you land at Ivato's airport near Tana, you first notice that the earth is red. Then if the weather is mild and sunny, you see all these patches of colours on the ground which eventually you recognize as being clothing and sheets drying on raphia rugs.

Both my parents were born near Tana and their parents as well and their grandparents as well…Madagascar has been a French colony until 1960. My parents went to France when they were very young and settled there.

One month ago I went to visit them, as they’re off to Madagascar for a few months. Quite solemnly my father said: "We still have three rice fields here and three more there and a few derelict houses, and I now have to deal with it". My sister and I thought this would make a nice title for a novel, the three rice fields….

It is so long ago I haven't been to Madagascar and yet I can still remember

the outdoor kitchen of my aunt in Tamatavo where she would grill fish on a charcoal burner and elaborate colourful meals for twenty people everyday, namely the family but also neighbours.

this half day spent in the heat waiting for a train, amidst a luxuriant tropical forest. Women started to appear from nowhere, selling buns, these delicious mofo menakely, meatballs and fish. Within a few minutes, the whole platform looked like a huge party of people having a picnic.
I still remember this feeling of time being totally elastic, when hours last forever.

The endless chatting at night with my cousins so eager to know about life in Europe. The laughters and the so beautiful Malagasy music my cousins played with kids from the neighbourhood, with guitar, flute and tins.


The angry speech of one of my uncles – one of the earliest in favour of the independence - while recalling he had to learn at school that his ancestors were the people of Gaul.

My sisters and I trying to pound rice in those big wooden mortars.

I’m so sure I will go back to Tana....One day...
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