Ivelo is a small village situated about 40 km behind Vontovorona in Madagascar. If you’ve known anything about the earth’s fourth largest island on the Southeastern coast of Africa, it is the fact that things run a little slower in Madagascar, people tend to be more laid back there.
The country is largely known for its lemurs (primitive relatives of monkeys, apes, and humans), colourful chameleons, stunning orchids, and towering baobab trees. Madagascar is home to some of the world’s most unique flora and fauna.
Yet it is, unfortunately, also one of the poorest countries in the world. For many of such economies, art and sport are luxuries.
But this has not stopped the Malagasy from dreaming.
Even though Ivelo is located some distance from the capital city, its inhabitants have their way of life and thinking. Residents of Antananarivo can take advantage of a variety of cultural events and exchanges such as theatre and music.
According to Fela Razafiarison, “Hiragasy’ or the traditional Malagasy kinds of music are mainly dominant in Ivelo.’’ Hiragasy is a musical tradition in Madagascar, particularly among the Merina ethnic group of the Highland regions around the capital of Antananarivo. It is a day-long spectacle of music, dance, and ‘kabary’, a traditional form of oratory performed by a troupe or as a competition between two troupes.
However, various musical traditions have been used for educational purposes in society. Vakodrazana is for instance similar to theatre performed by a group of people, generally a family. The head of the family creates a band with all the family members, they write their songs and perform them in public. It is a practice that parents pass on from generation to generation.
Hiragasy is a combination of music and dance that is specific to the culture of the people of the central highlands of Madagascar Merina in particular. The performances take place both outdoors and indoors with most of the performers wearing colourful costumes.
Men usually wear bright red ‘malabary’ tunics while women always wear a cloth or ‘lamba’ around their shoulders with flashy dresses.
During the festival, locals usually congregate around the performer and some of the performances have their audience participating and helping out.
Still, the younger generation in Ivelo doesn’t seem to benefit from different artistic events despite the local efforts. There are neither cultural centres nor activities for children and young people at schools.
Culture doesn’t have to be static; it has to be dynamic following the revolution and changes. It can be used to educate a nation, a society, or an individual. For that, it has to be accessible to everyone, and each generation and has to grow with them. Enter Miangaly Theater Company and the L’Autre Main.
Applying for Cultural Access
In May 2021, The French Institute of Paris and The French Agency for Development called for a project Cultural Access or Accès Culture. The Accès Culture program aims to support and finance cultural projects that promote social links and strengthen collaboration between African and French cultural actors.
Therefore, the participants had to work in pairs on a project that responds to a local need.
Project Ivelo, started in March 2022 during the Rallye Moi(s)Théâtre, an annual theatre festival.
Miangaly Theater Company applied alongside L’Autre Main and chose to have their focus on Ivelo. A decision many believe will significantly impact the local cultural sector and bridge the gap within Ivelo’s cultural divide.
Fela Razafiarison, the stage director of Miangaly Theater Company has reasons to explain this particular choice; “the Hira Gasy and other cultural festivals are already present in Ivelo but we think that they are not enough for us to assume that the village has cultural access” Razafiarison said.
Thanks to a common artistic vision, Miangaly Theater Company and L’Autre Main were able to set a common artistic approach to creating Project Ivelo.
“L’Autre Main is a Beaurepaire-based company with whom we have previously collaborated. It takes an unusual artistic approach. They are accustomed to energizing and mobilizing the residents through a variety of local events and cultural festivals. As a result, the residents of Beaurepaire are accustomed to actively participating in the events that they organize,” explained Fela Razafiarison.
While creating the Ivelo project, they were able to draw on each other’s experiences. L’Autre Main was already adept at energizing a village through cultural events. The Miangaly Theater Company, on their part, had previously visited Ivelo and was familiar with the current cultural situation.
They were able to create a project that met the needs of the village based on these facts.
Project Ivelo – A Result of Various Collaborations
L’Autre Main and Miangaly Theater Company share the same vision and principles. On 24 May 2014, the two companies’ paths crossed for the first time. This was during a street festival, the third biennial Lire au Coin d’La Rue, in Revel Tourdan (38270) with Carcara Company.
Carcara Company is a group of associated artists (music, drama, juggling, painting, video and photography), brought together by the fight against all forms of humiliation with the aid of theatre.
The Miangaly Theater Company and L’Autre Main shared the stage with the Carcara company and other local companies such as Compagnie Béco/Nico & Co., and Compagnie Ephémère among others.
L’Autre Main was founded by Virginie Charbonnier and Christophe Pilven in 2011 with a spirit of liberation, collaboration and research.
They distinguished themselves through poetic reinvention through the ease with which they could manipulate objects ranging from juggling to puppetry. However, this company has also learned how to generate artistic wealth through collaborations with other arts such as music, texts, video and plastic arts.
In 2014, Ry Mpikadrila, a Malagasy dance company organized the first edition of the annual Festival Ry Mpikadrila. It is a series of multi-arts performances in the open and on the move around several rural venues where they invite different disciplines to participate such as contemporary dance, slam poetry and theatre among others.
It was in 2015, during the second edition of Festival Ry Mpikadrila that Miangaly Theater Company would learn of Ivelo and its inhabitants.
Project Ivelo – Enriching Local Cultural Background
The Miangaly Theater Company and the L’Autre Main decided to base the Ivelo project on cultural education. The project itself has different components.
First, the workshop, which includes introducing young people in Ivelo to various artistic practices. The companies call on several artists such as poets, dancers, and actors to run the workshops.
In June 2022, a second slam poetry workshop called the Slam Poetry Initiation was held in Ivelo. Rado Ravalison commonly known as Orad, a poet and member of the Association of Malagasy Poet Slammers – Madagaslam facilitated the workshop.
Rado Ravalison said that the number of participants decreased compared to the first workshop, but the interest of these children in art in general is increasing with each workshop.
“The children are quick learners, passionate and are already familiar with using and playing with words as they tend to attend traditional Malagasy music shows,’’ added Rado Ravalison.
Secondly, the performance component mainly consists of bringing professional performances to the rural environment. But also, it’s a platform that allows young participants to give their performances in front of a wider audience.