Madagascar celebrates Independence Day


On June 26th.


The meaning. What do you know about Madagascar? It’s the world's fourth-largest island, which lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa opposite Mozambique. In 2014, the population of Madagascar was estimated at just over 23 million. The largest city and the capital is Antananarivo.

Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented assortment of socio-political alliances. At the beginning of 19th century, most of the island was united as the Kingdom of Madagascar. The monarchy collapsed in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire. Only on 26 June 1960, when provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution, Madagascar gained full independence. French is still an official language of the republic as well as Malagasy.

How it is celebrated.
The path from Madagascar to Austria wasn’t easy for Stéphane E. Deville. He was born in the southern part of the island in 1980. “Both my parents are mixed-race, my grandfathers were french and my grandmothers were locals. This is the reason why my name doesn't sound like the local ones”, he explains. When he was 19, he moved for two years to the island of Réunion and then for almost 6 years to Montpellier (France), where he became an IT-technician. The next “stop” was Tenerife (Spain) where he lived from 2006 to 2014. And at last Carinthia. The reason is simple: his girlfriend is Austrian.

“The last time I celebrated Independence Day in Madagascar was many years ago. I remember, that the night before there is always fireworks. In Tulear, my town, the fireworks are launched from a large street at the sea-side. Children are crazy about it, it’s really amazing. Most of the people are holding multicolored lanterns made of paper in their hands. The next day, a military parade takes place on the same street. Different associations, sport-clubs, schools and so on participate in the parade. After that, families (all cousins, aunts, uncles, ...) get together for the festive meal. It’s a really great and significant day for Madagascar’s citizens. Because we value our freedom and independence”.

Family traditions.
Are they still important for Stéphane? “Living abroad for all these years, I’ve changed my opinion on certain things”, he tells. “I feel it especially when I speak to my brothers who are still living in Madagascar. I now feel like an international person. But some things from my homeland are still important for me. For example, my father comes from a clan of anglers. It’s forbidden in his family to eat lamb (like Muslims are not allowed to eat pork) and I follow that rule, out of respect. As to our food, I can’t say much. My family is used to eating a lot of rice, corn, manioc, sweet potatoes with grilled or boiled meat or fish. Every meal is always freshly cooked. What I really miss is having a large variety of tropical fruit”.

Independence Day of Madagascar is a day when Stéphane thinks about his homeland. But he is not homesick and really likes Austria.

Text: Vita Vitrenko, Photos of Madagaskar: Stéphane E. Deville