Queendom of the Merina

25 06 2017

4c7d98a15fa9da84366b2fe13d3910da

Above, a sculpture from an exhibition of Malagasy art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum titled “Kingdom of the Merina” and below, Madagascar’s “mad queen” Ranavalona I. 

463962113

I was recently reading about the interesting historical figure of Queen Ranavalona, who ruled Madagascar with an iron fist from the 1830s to the 1860s. Traditionally described as a cruel tyrant, and sometimes said to have been insane, she has recently been subject to some historical revisionism. Her rule, which relied on forced labour and featured the violent persecution of Christians, was undoubtedly brutal. But postcolonial historians have wondered if her determination to stop European colonialism in its tracks and preserve Madagscar’s traditions and sovereignty (unsuccessful in the end) deserve attention as mitigating factors.

Among the hallmarks of Ranavalona’s rule was the widespread use of the tangena justice system, a kind of trial-by-torture reminiscent of that used in the witch trials of medieval Europe. An accused person would swallow the poison of the tangena tree. One source quoted by wikipedia says: “The accused would be fed the poison along with three pieces of chicken skin: if all three pieces of skin were vomited up then innocence was declared, but death or a failure to regurgitate all three pieces of skin indicated guilt.[4] Those who died were declared sorcerers. According to custom, the families of the dead were not permitted to bury them within the family tomb, but rather had to inter them in the ground at a remote, inhospitable location, with the head of the corpse turned to the south.”

In 1838 some 20% of the population may have died this way, in an anti-Christian purge.

800px-Tangena_trial_by_ordeal_Madagascar





Worlds collide

21 06 2017

fullsizerender209_zpsfqep70rk

I must have walked past this a million times without noticing, the shuttered and now sadly gone store of a mysterious Malagasy trading company. What was the Madagascar-Hong Kong connection, I wonder? Rosewood? Dinosaur teeth? Spices? Who knows…. It is in the dingy arcade of the former Central Market, an old art deco building which has been left as a gaping open sore in Hong Kong’s centre for the last six or seven years as a legal battle rages over its prime real estate.





All around the world

25 05 2017

African beats from Johannesubrg’s Batuk, and a Southern Sudanese-themed video.

The return of Thai pop star, Palmy.

And below, Japan’s Wednesday Campanella on the Mongolian steppes for “Melos”





Aline Frazao : Ao Vivo

19 04 2017





New world star

6 03 2017

 

Portuguese producer Branko is part Manu Chao, part Diplo. While his former group Buraka Som Sistema took Angola’s kuduro music to the Europe MTV Awards stage, new album Atlas matches glitchy electronic beats with guest artists from Brazil and South Africa, amongst other places, to create a tapestry of modern world sound.

 

 





21st century boy

12 02 2017

img_5342 img_5353

Meet the new face of Seoul, 16-year-old Nigerian-Korean model Han Hyun Min, who broke out at this year’s Seoul Fashion Week. Sign o’ the times.

img_5339





The art of Belkis Ayon

25 01 2017

049285x499

Afro-Cuban symbolism in the art of Belkis Ayon, who sadly took her own life at the age of 32.

belkis0101 86-02