|Article by Afrika Poetry Jam
Published March 29, 2008
March 29 marks Memorial Day/Martyr’s Day/Commemoration Day, an occasion dedicated to those who died in the 1947 rebellion by the Malagasy nationalists, Mouvement Democratique de la Renovation Malagache/MDRM. The MDR was banned and more than 11,000 people were killed by the French colonial solders.
The Malagasy Republic, proclaimed on October 14, 1958, became fully independent in 1960 though the people voted to remain within the French Community.
Renamed Madagascar in 1975, this fourth largest island in the world”behind
There is nothing between the southernmost tip of Madagascar and Antarctica but 3,000 miles of heaving gray sea and howling winds. This is truly the land au bout du monde, at the end of the earth, as Malagasy poet Flavien Ranaivo called it.
Whatever Madagascar’s origin, the island “at the end of the earth” is known to have been geographically isolated for a very long time. Strange animals and plants found there exist nowhere else on earth.
Lemurs, the great-eyed monkey-like creatures that represent one dead end in the primates’ upward groping toward man, lead the peculiar fauna. But sub-fossil bones of creatures that lived until comparatively recent times reveal a pygmy hippopotamus no bigger than a dog, a lemur the size of a small pony, and a gigantic bird that laid the largest known eggs.
Unusual domesticated animals also abound on Madagascar, including distinctive Zebu cattle, the main, or rather, the only beast of burden of the island.
Similar in appearance to the Brahman cows of India, the Zebu have been integral to
While riding on the main highways it is common to have to pass though a large herd. When used for transport, Zebu are hitched to any manner of carts or wagons and provide slow, but sure, locomotion. Few obstacles are too great for the intrepid Zebu.
Largely influenced by traditional Malagasy ballads and song forms, poet Ranaivo contemplates the familiar and venerable Zebu in the poem aptly titled, Zebu, below:
His lips move unceasingly
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Born at Arivonimamo in 1914, Ranaivo lost his father two years after his birth.