The Twist, Turns and Tones of Madagascar's Seasonal Awakening

Architect Joan Razafimaharo chronicals her home and culture through ochre hues

Old Earth Wall called Tamboho Gasy (2020) by Joan RazafimaharoDesign Indaba

Finding Madagascar, finding home

Architect Joan Razafimaharo is committed to working with local communities. She is careful to use  materials from the natural environment in which she is working. In a film and accompanying photographic series, Joan unpacks the physical and metaphorical meanings of home. 

Elliott following Bekoto to join Ambohijanaka Rova and a survivingTrano Kotona in the background (2020) by Joan RazafimaharoDesign Indaba

Marking the journey

In her search for 'home', Joan began to mark her experiences of Madagascar through journals. In writing about her encounters as well as photographing and filming them, she produced a phyiscal entry into what home means to her. 

An ode to ochre

Joan used color as an entry point for her journey, and found ochre to be the most powerful hue . In speaking to guides and village experts she chronicled a very personal story. The following texts are taken from her journals written during this time.

Noro Ramboarison (2020) by Joan RazafimaharoDesign Indaba

Off-season, the Lohataona – our word for spring, marked the end of the lockdown in Madagascar.  I asked Vanf, a good friend of mine, to explain the meaning of Lohataona. Lohataona, he taught me, is guided by the traditional calendar inherited from our Muslim heritage. 

I asked him what colour comes to his mind when he thinks of our island. "Just go with ochre,” he said to me.

Ochre is the colour of our homes."

Ochre; the colour of the earth, the walls, the colour of the paste the workers mix up from cement, water and cow’s blood.

By the time Lohataona arrives the seeds that hang from the ceilings in every house in the countryside are waiting to be sown.

Graffiti on a house nearby Ambohijanaka Rova (2020) by Joan RazafimaharoDesign Indaba

I ask Bekoto Paysans, a sociologist for rural causes and also one of the last members of Mahaleo, an acclaimed Madagascar music band, to be my guide through the twists and turns of this seasonal awakening.

Together we visit studios and ateliers. We discuss the shades of tannins, of wood, of mangrove, of natural dyes.

Time slowed during lockdown. We were already by definition the land of “Mora Mora” – of “take it easy”. But it slows even more now. I visit the tombs of the ancient kings, and there again I find an ochre shade.

Old walls made of compacted earth that mark out where the old guardians of the country now lie in peace.

Old wood from Trano Kotona Façade (2020) by Joan RazafimaharoDesign Indaba

I take the black burnt wood colour of the trano, the first homes that were built in Madagascar. The word itself means to be together all day. It speaks to our history, to our culture. I take the ochre colour of the tamboho, the compacted earth walls. Ochre is the colour of home. 

Ochre is Home (2020) by Joan RazafimaharoDesign Indaba

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