Family business

Madagascar. During dinner we are making plans for tomorrow and that includes getting our groceries…

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It’s around 5:30 in the morning. I carry a bag ment for rice wich will be filled with fruits, and he has his knife, to make way for us both. It’s very humid out here, I love this. It brings curls to my hair and my skin feels like it can finally breath. Walking here surrounded by the color green, with a man who know’s so much about birds and plants is a true joy. Also here, I find huge tracks of the slash and burn problem, and the area has changed dramaticly after my last visit. We are out to get avocado’s, pineapple and herbs. The fact that you can pick things from any tree or bush and being out in the open, is a true pleasure itself.

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As the day slowly starts I find several holes like this one in the ground. Tunnels that are dug out to find precious stones. It makes me think of Ilakaka. Ilakaka is a small town in Ihorombe Region in the south western part of Madagascar. In the early 1990s there were only about 40 residents in the area. And back in 2001, my first visit, I walked around there. It was quiet and calm. But, since the discovery of world class alluvial sapphire deposits, the population had boomed to near 60,000 by 2005! I am only hoping that that won’t happen here.

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A baby pineapple.

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The home where I stayed the last time.

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This tiny jewel here below is one of my favorits. I brought some seeds with me back home. A bit difficult for you to see probably, but this plant is a very strong survivor. Here’s the thing:vWhen you kindly touch it, the leaves start to close. like meat eating plants. It’s so alive! and the flowers, so beautiful…light pink with tiny white dots at the end…


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The Ravenala palm tree, also called the travelers tree and is a symbol of Madagascar.

Not so clear, is the water running out of the trunk while Daniel slashes his knife into the trunk above. It has been given the name “traveller’s palm” because the sheaths of the stems hold rainwater, which supposedly could be used as an emergency drinking supply for needy travellers. However, the water inside the plant is murky, black and smelly and should not be consumed without purification. Another reason for its name is that the fan tends to grow in an east-west line, providing a crude compass, I mean, how cool is that?!

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The enormous paddle-shaped leaves are borne on long petioles, in a distinctive fan shape aligned in a single plane. The large white flowers, not shown in this image, are structurally similar to those of its relatives, the bird-of-paradise flowers. The plant is widely cultivated for its distinctive habit and foliage. As the plant grows older, it progressively loses the lowest or oldest leaves and reveals a sturdy grey trunk.

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The seeds are amazing. The outside is quite tough and you need a knife, or something sharp to open it if you want to take a look at the wonders inside.

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Yes , this is real! this color…it is out of this world! Ok. back to the walking…We decide to take a piroque that will bring us to the other side of the river, and walk a bit more

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After a while…we seem to be in an area where we are not supposed to be, the landowner, Daniel says, does not want strangers here, and he gives me a look that means, I guess, calm down a bit with the camera…We slide of a hill while I grab tree branches to hold on to. The earth is so muddy that I have to watch myself not to fall into the river.

Through the trees ahead of us, I see a group of people. They are working and talk in calm voices.  The sound of water, as if it is being sturred. A family from a nearby village comes here every day, hoping to find gold. Daniel recognizes the man and woman. We start to talk… These man and woman…they just know that this precious metal is worth enough to justify them spending eight hours a day breaking rocks and washing clay in stagnant brown puddles.

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With sticks they loosen up the bottom of the river for the mud to run free. Finding a huge rock is rare. Most of the time, if they do find something you should imagine that it looks like powder, like sand…
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A friendly smile but they found nothing…I watch other folks returning home after they also have spend all their time and energy, looking for gold.

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We stop on our way back to visit a family friend and I take a look at the way the local treasures are presented.

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 The family Daniel, with who I’m staying, has a special place in my hart.  They have opened a door to a new world, and showed that kindness can be found anywhere on this planet. And I hereby like to show you this drawing Vero, one of the daughters, and me, made together in my Moleskin. It’s the family tree.

familyboomHeading home we make a quick visit in the afternoon to the home of  another family member…DSC_2019 copy

Florentine looking at Father Daniel while he reads a text message coming from one of his children who lives in Antananarivo. The mother of all these children is excually the one who showed/introduced me to embroidery back in 2001. The result of that can be found here (for if you are interested that is).


And for those who have been following me…the picture below, the new home of the family, this was where –  the chicken was waiting – in front of the kitchen, picture centre.


Ok. We have decided to have a grapefruit (our catch of the day) for our late lunch. I mean, look at the size of it!


Daniel and Florentine now run a tiny epicerie. Before he was head of a school but is retired now. I was very curious , offcourse, on how this epicerie is run. They get their supplies from a village nearby, and from the forest where we where this morning. Also, once a month, in the evening, a truck comes by filled with packed goods mainly Chinese products and best known in Europe for their high amount of preservatives, better known as the ‘E’ numbers. Just to give you some info on this…for if you want to know what’s in your food, cause this is not good for us…

  • E210, this is found in sour products
  • E214 till 219 is found in allmost every packed product and also in cosmetics
  • E 250 is found in meat and fish
  • E252 and this one in cheese and meat and pizza for instance.

In the epicerie…Rice is being sold

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Apart from selling products like; sugar, petrolium, rice, cookies, candlesticks, soap, bottled water and soda, to make some extra money they also sell localy made alcohol.

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This offcourse is hidden under the counter, together with medicins that are also not allowed to sell without authorisation. This licor is so extremely strong that only one tiny glass will make you boogy woogy your way back home. I have to say that in these outskirts it sadly has become a way to forget your daily problems. This means that these days young pregnant woman also don’t mind having a tiny glass in the middle of the day.


One of their sons ,Thomson, who lives in the next village, also runs an epicerie, together with his wife, son and daughter. Here they also sell local meat, Zebu and pig. There are no fridges, and there is not something like a butcher with his own truck. So everything is coming in with the taxibrusse. The local busses that transports everything from A to B.




Thanks for dropping by

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8 Replies to “Family business”

  1. This was very very informative and interesting at the same time. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. Your photography is mind-boggling. The ‘double’ hand at the gold-panning really caught my attention.


      1. I’ll be sure to check it out. I live about 4 hours drive away frm Jhb. I am planning to visit some friends over the holiday season so maybe we’ll be in Jhb at the same time.


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