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For visitors to Antananarivo, some local artistic productions present a curious and typical side.
Robert Boudry says it in his “Art and Crafts Malagasy”: “Whoever arrives for the first time in the capital of the island makes first visit to the market of Zoma where he admires the ingenuity of all that s’ Offers to his sight: hornbirds and sparteries, rabbits and lambamena of silk with shimmering colors, wooden objects and statuettes, small rustic pottery coated with graphite, marquetry, watercolors … Most often, he leaves the city without having seen anything else That these objects, more or less marketed, which do not fail to please him. It would indeed be unjustified to judge the art of the Hauts-plateaux solely on the basis of such productions, the cost of which derives from the teaching given to the workshops of the Malagasy applied arts. “
The amateur of art and curiosity, he will look for the old object as the best testimony of the local artistic capacities. “The Palaces and Museums will teach him. “
The wood of merina beds, “which is particularly cited as an example when we speak of Malagasy art,” form strips about two meters long, of hardwood of a reddish brown and dark, engraved to the line Or carved like bas-reliefs. They emerged at a time when European influences were beginning to be felt, “but it must be easily recognized that the craftsmen of that period, if they were inspired by a foreign technique, have attained true art.”
The earliest of these woods date back to the time of Radama I. They use many motifs: geometric drawings imputed in general to Arab influences; “Rosette” astral with six branches, solar “rosaceas”, inscribed squares representing the Babylonian “ziqqurat”, “waves” of the primitive cosmogony and “trees of life” which denote their distant Chaldean origin, The profane their magic meaning four millennia old “.
We can also see on these bedsteads the ox, the guinea fowl, the men … but the most remarkable ones that are not the oldest are those that represent children going to school, rows of musicians, Soldiers and ladies of the Court in a bell-shaped dress wearing an umbrella, riders with a bicorne hatched …
Iron is used for the manufacture of candlesticks, of which “elegance” does not fail to attract foreigners. “A special mention must also be made of very old soapstone candlesticks, a soft stone which hardens in the air, and which the fat of burnt beef has covered with a reddish patina. “
Very sought after also are the traditional silk gowns, hand-woven “lamba” and “remarkable”. The silk of the “landibe” furnishes a fairly beautiful raw material, though a “deafened tone”: of a yellowish gray, it is easily dyed in dark red, and is used to weave “lambamena” or shrouds.
Towels woven in “landikely” or natural silk from Europe, colored in bright colors, are often formed of three strips of silk with red, green or blue stripes, the central strip being embroidered, with the ends trimmed with fringes. “The lambamena are among the most pleasing productions to be found here. And if the technique of silk and the use of stripes seem to have an Asian, Indonesian origin, the geometrical designs which decorate them, the embroideries and the stylized plants have affinities with the art of the Near East. “
However, artistic evolution is most evident in Antananarivo in painting, beginning with the arrival of the first Europeans.
First, the wall paintings of the Tranovola in the Royal Rova: “they have the charm of some romantic decorations, but are treated in an exotic way. The subjects they use, decorative motifs, vegetables, characters, crowds, create an atmosphere similar to that of bed-wood, “which is more the atmosphere of an epoch than the expression of a purely Malagasy feeling. Nevertheless, this work, unfortunately unique, is original because the artist knew how to draw inspiration from a technique without being enslaved by it. “
But it was from 1930 that an “interesting” movement in the field of painting took shape in the capital, prompted in large part by the arrival of the scholars of painting and sculpture who gave courses and Students. Young artists draw inspiration from these masters, each according to their own qualities and “the result is often happy