Select Page

Madagascar News Forums The Transformation of Antananarivo Reply To: The Transformation of Antananarivo


It is a true tourist island, green eden and haven of protection for the ships with holds. Nosy Mangabe called Isle Marose in the bottom of the vast Antongil Bay, constitutes a regular stopover point for the ships of the Dutch East India Company. Indeed, after doubling the Cape of Good Hope, they headed towards Mauritius and Sumatra avoiding the dangerous gusts of the Channel of Mozambique.
Faithful to a maritime custom that later would have to render much service to historians, Dutch sailors releasing to the island Marose do not fail to fix on the cliffs and stone slabs the trace of their passage. They write their names, those of their ships and the date of their stay. These inscriptions allow us to precisely mark the series of voyages and maritime incursions of the period between 1595 and 1657.
Besides this historical importance, Nosy Mangabe is also directly connected with the installation of the French in Madagascar since on February 14, 1774, the Hungarian adventurer Benyowski arrives there. He was commissioned by Louis XV to found a colony in Antongil Bay. The small island will retain the memory of this event by a new denomination. Benyowski gives the island the name of the Duke of Aiguillon, governor of Brittany, and the beach on which he approaches, is baptized with the name of M. de Boynes, Minister of the Navy. And it is under these names that both appear on the old maps.
Benyowski and his companions left no traces on this island because they stayed there for a short time to go to the bottom of the bay on 14 February 1774, when their attempt to colonize ended in disaster. Seconded by the natives, he built Louisbourg, erected forts, built roads, dug channels. But at the end of 1774, he abandoned the cause of France and declared himself independent. Besides, a few tens of thousands of Betsimisaraka recognize him as their king.
It is not long, however, to be assailed by many difficulties. He left for Europe and dared to solicit in person the assistance of France which rejected his pretensions. No happier in Austria and England, he went as far as America, whence he returned to Madagascar in 1785 with some insufficient subsidies. But this time, France treats him as a rebel and in an engagement with troops sent from Bourbon against him, Benyowski is killed by a shot in the Bay of Antongil, on 27 May 1786.
Unfortunately, not all Malagasy tourist sites have such a historic past. Such as the gorges of Manambolo in the crossing of the Antsingy (or Tsingy). They contain caves which for a long time have been chosen by local populations to deposit their dead. The difficulties of access make these ultimate asylums almost inviolable.
Similarly, simple shelters under rocks are used as cemeteries. One of them is near the village of Bekopaka: the coffins containing the bodies are placed on the stone, sheltered from the weather by the overhanging vault. The bones they contain seem to belong to Vazimba, called Beosy in the country, and which constitute one of the oldest populations of the island. “Perhaps even the only autochthonous race before the arrival of invaders from the East.” As a result, these cemeteries are of great ethnographic interest.
Another curiosity of the country sakalava: the silicified woods of the region of Morafenobe, giants overturned and transformed into stone defying eternity. They are fossil trees made of quartz or chalcedony. They are only represented by trunks and these are never branched because the branches are broken or destroyed during the transport by the currents between the places of origin and deposit. Bongalava is sometimes referred to as the location on which these forests live.