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One of the shows that strike and charm most newcomers in Madagascar, is that of the fairs. As the chronicler Maurice Fleurial put it in 1935, “nothing in France can be compared to these manifestations which derive both from the economic necessities and the irresistible need that the inhabitant of the Great Island possesses, to entertain itself And to find joy. “
The fair comes back at fixed periods of the year, Maurice Fleurial can attend and makes a very truculent description. Beginning with the preparations to which the “native officials” almost always bring a great zeal. “And it is enough that they know that the district chief administrator or any authority of the same plan must come so that all the resources of the Malagasy ingenuity are implemented”: arches of greenery and flowers a profusion on the way Of access, small flags, banners of calico where are written protests of attachment and fidelity to France.
And if the administrator keeps his promise and comes, dressed in his uniform, “an invisible telegraph, equipped with two agile legs”, announces the arrival of the small official procession, long before the official of his car, town. There are endless greetings and clapping of hands, and then from the crowd “stand out the toddlers dressed in pink or red jackets and wearing the traditional straw hat”. Having in one hand an inoffensive spear, they dance “like devils in a perfect rhythm”.
Everything stops and “an unexpected Marseillaise,” rises in silence, played by bamboo flutes, drums and copper instruments “unearthed by somebody else. Of course, sometimes it takes some effort to recognize the work of Rouget de Lisle, but the administrator is indulgent and he reads in such looks such kindness, such respect, such hope of being understood and loved, He begins to smile benevolently without disguising his tenderness and his happiness to see people so welcoming.
As for the crowd, it is a spectacle in itself. The men, almost all uniformly dressed in short trousers and lamba “that day, whiter than usual,” are wearing a large hat of braided straw or felt hat While the richest, the most distinguished, wear European clothes under their lamba. Women, however, are infinitely coquettish: earrings, necklaces of coral or glass beads in their necks, dresses of a great variety, but all of bright colors, well-ordered hair that “represents by itself a work Of patience, such as the Parisian women who indulge in the torture of the indefensible, would think that they were not tormented if they had to undergo the complicated preparation of a Madagascan headdress. “
“The Malagasy, in general, has an extraordinary sense of color. He composes with them the most unexpected sets of clothing. But under the misty sky of Paris, these living palettes would scream with pain. “But in Madagascar, on a green background of eucalyptus, yellow of the” bozaka “and warm of a bright sun,” they put spots of a note and Of an indefinable charm “.
The fair begins with the official visit of the products, commodities, fabrics, utensils and instruments made of iron, domestic animals which have undergone a “completed toilet”. “What a satisfaction” on the face of the exhibitor when the administrator leans to take an interest in his stall! Then comes a short breakfast of banana donuts, the administrator is gone, and the real celebration begins: battles, races and amusements for children … Everybody jokes, laughs, claps their hands. And all this reigns a “infernal music” yet captivating as well as a “deafening tintamarre”.
“Decidedly, we can no longer laugh and amuse ourselves in France. We must come to Madagascar to find, in the human being, the joy of living and the healthy pleasure. And yet all these people in a lamba feed on little and live in modest huts, they have only humble needs. “
The fair concludes in the evening with a ball “respectfully requested”: the women and the young girls come dressed in their beautiful attire, the young people are eager, polite, bow and “all styled by a teacher who knows Not to limit his role to class hours, constitute, at a certain moment, a quadrille which I would very much like, if you please, that we should dance everywhere in France with so much grace and ingenuity.
And Maurice Fleurial concluded: “Ah! As we are right in Madagascar not to want to inculcate the native in our way so narrow and quick to live … Let him live in his dearest and most beautiful ways, be happy ! “