The Madajazz collection is chosen from the heart and influenced by my personal travels to Madagascar, meeting the local people and an appreciation for their craft and skill for bag making. I came across the bags and hats in 2009 whilst at a charity fashion show … they were being modelled on the cat walk. I was looking for bags with a difference, and these fitted my vision perfectly. On learning more about the bags, how they were made, and where they were from, I was compelled to visit the country and to learn more. My blog posts will tell tales of why I feel so inspired by Madagascar and I thought no better place to start that the mystical capital city, and why each bag has its own unique namesake of an area of Madagascar.
The City of the Thousands
Antananarivo known to most as Tana, is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. The name means City of the Thousands referring to the history of the city, because there are thought to be 1000 or more treasures to explore. Tana has a privileged location, within the high ground of the Central Highlands of Madagascar, overlooking the stunning sights of the city but surrounded by untouched marshland.
There’s a view over a good deal of the city from sadly what’s now the remains of the Queens Palace, which burned to the ground in 1996. Whilst there’s little in the way of conventional sightseeing, there are some experiences to behold. With many interesting markets, colonial buildings and craft shops, Tana’s a great place to explore. There’s plenty of opportunity to sample the simple pleasures of walking around, watching local scenes and the laid back approach to life, which many of its inhabitants display.
The capital’s main street is known as ‘Avenue de l’Independence’, and from first light each morning, the street becomes a focal point for traders to start to sell their wares. Daylight also sees the start of hustle and bustle, buses, walkers, cars, bikes, tuk tuks, Zebu cows pulling carts, and the ‘taxi brousse’, the everyday transport. Rather like our minibus, but instead of 22 people aboard, more likely 42! With 1.3 million residents, Tana is a vibrant city ideal for sampling a slice of the Madagascan lifestyle.
Tana’s French Influence
Tana’s French Asian inspired architecture has many winding cobblestone streets and staircases throughout the city, creating a medieval feel even in modern times. The French invaded the city in 1894, but Tana regained its independence in 1960. However, during the short 66 years of French rule, Tana gained most of its infrastructure and architecture, including electricity, water sources, a railway and several large residencies created for the wealthy.
A city of Paradise and Poverty
The culture in Tana in these modern times enjoys a vibrant arts scene, plenty of places to enjoy local music and a large sports arena. However, Madagascar is still a developing country, and residents endure regular cyclones, periodic natural disasters and political unrest, all of which make it hard to maintain stability and a livelihood. Many of Tana’s residents will travel on foot, with the mainstay of the economy being in livestock (Zebu rearing) and agriculture. Madajazz bags are made from natural resources that are easily accessible on the island, including Raffia, which is derived from palm trees. Madajazz suppliers are carefully chosen to ensure that workers are paid fairly and that the co-operatives they work within invest in the local community.