Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Madagascar Plan - a verbal monument (kabary)

Eric Van Hove, who recently presented his Oracle as part of the Directors Lounge project memory in motion, is now participating in 30 et presque-songes, a group show at the zone zital ankorondrano, Antananarivo, Republic of Madagascar. In the village of Isorana, region of High Matsiatra, Fianarantsoa province, he created a verbal monument (kabary) The Madagascar Plan.

The Madagascar Plan: from 1938 onward, before opting for their extermination, Nazi Germany seriously considered and nearly carried a plan to forcibly relocate the European Jewish population to the African island. In his Reflections on the Treatment of Peoples of Alien Races in the East, Heinrich Himmler declared: "I hope that the concept of Jews will be completely extinguished through the possibility of a large emigration of all Jews to Africa or some other colony." 1
A form of traditional Malagasy oratory, kabary is based on the unhurried telling of ancestral proverbs, metaphors, and riddles, frequently in a dialogue using call and response addressed in high voice to an assembly. Originally used in public gatherings and political assemblies of a pre-literate era, the form has since evolved and been popularized, but it has kept its specific rules. Today, despite the rising literacy rate and the familiarity with different manners of speech, kabary is still considered necessary for communication during ritual events, and is also used widely in regular, day-to-day talk. If one of the main rules of kabary is that the subject or point of the conversation can never be broached directly (and in some instances cannot be stated at all) one of the specificity behind the Holocaust was precisely that it was masterminded as to erase all traces of its occurring as it was taking place: the work is therefore intended as a verbal monument to what didn稚 happened (the arrival of six millions of jews on Madagascar). While the mpikabary (kabary practitioners) of the Petsileo people in central Madagascar are suppose to be the best, there are many types of kabary: ceremony, burial, circumcision, history/memory, exhumation, marriage, engagement, inauguration, apologize, etc.
This verbal monument (3 hours in length once included the important preliminary discussions) therefore gathered 10 Petsileo mpikabary for a Tsiok'afo kabary (litt. "blow on the fire" - revive the fire stands here as a metaphor for reviving the memory), a kabary of memory.
Their names were: The elders: Ndriamasolo Gabriel Pierre, Razafimandimby Daniel, Ralahy Ignace Delphin. The adults: Ramasy Alphonse, Randriamamdimby Alphonse, Rakotonirina Jean-Baptiste Dieu-Donné, Rakotonirina Dieu-Donné. The youngsters: Ratahirinirina Jean-Charles Angelot, Ranirina Nomenjanahary Lidrient, Ratsimbarinony Charles Narcisse.

1/ Christopher R. Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, University of Nebraska Press, 2004.

Eric Van Hove
Fenenin El-Rahhal (or the "Caravan of Artist-Nomads")

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