A tong presses my chest and chokes me as the vehicle moves along the battered road of potholes, dust and poverty. The hostile breeze shakes waves of white sand against the glasses, against trees and bushes camouflaged with gray dust, against the people, who, loaded like animals, walk infinite distances of resignation under an inclement sun, diving in the dust and breathing misery. I was hoping to find the lonely green emerald beaches of the Indian Ocean. I wanted to walk among baobabs, the African aristocracy of the trees. But now, I have the feeling of walking barefoot and lost in the anteroom of hell.
This is the end of a journey full of lights; that I will tell. Probably. But today I’m still impacted by the shadows. I do not want to forget innocent looks of kind joy, of undisguised curiosity. But I can’t separate from my memory the old looks in children eyes. The weight of life. The imminence of death. What in essence is the other Africa.
Maybe, probably, it’s me. I think I’ve never managed to take the pulse of this continent. And Madagascar is no exception. Because this land is Africa without sweeteners.
Malagasy people have death rooted in their culture. They don’t conceive life without it. Maybe they are right mixing the two sides of the coin. Maybe because of that, and the high infant mortality, they don’t name children until they are three years old. And, perhaps, for that reason, they celebrate death with an explosion of life. To which they invite the living; and the dead one. Literally.
One of the things I would like to learn from them is the ability to celebrate. Because if you have never been in a Malagasy funeral then you have never been in a party.
It is risky to write about an unknown land based on the superficial vision of a few trips. But what I sense right now is quite hopeless. Africa is a continent full of potential. But we will not let them have an opportunity, but, if they have one, I’m afraid, they will not take advantage of it.