Title: Madagascar. Mahalsinjo.
Author : ANONYMOUS (-)
Creation date : 1925
Date shown: June 21, 1925
Dimensions: Height 13.5 - Width 8
Storage location: Quai Branly Museum - Jacques Chirac website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web
Picture reference: 96-014554 FondsHaardt / Croisièrenoire4 ° GMH120n ° 1258
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi
Publication date: February 2009
Madagascar in the 1920s : growing interest in this land of missions, explorations and adventures
Since the law of 1896, Madagascar has officially been a "French colony", placed under the authority of a governor general. Photography Madagascar. Mahalsinjo, taken on June 21, 1925, immortalizes this "Citroën mission" which also aims to promote secular schools on the island. Since the XIXe century, the schools are indeed often those of the religious missions: Protestant in great majority (English in particular) and Catholic (French). But the results remain measured, and power continues to rest on private initiatives.
Outdoor writing lesson
The anonymous snapshot Madagascar. Mahalsinjo shows an outdoor writing lesson, under the Madagascan sun, which dispenses lights and shadows in a rather aesthetic play of contrasts. The photograph shows a young girl wearing a Malagasy dress and a white shawl, barefoot. Even standing, she seems small compared to the table erected on a massive wooden tripod, on which she tries, almost in extension, to reproduce the text already inscribed: the Citroën mission. Standing next to her, a Malagasy man, dressed strictly (his white jacket is buttoned up) in an impeccable colonial suit, watches his work. It must be the teacher, and no doubt he set the pattern. To his left stand two other students who, slate in hand, also have their eyes fixed on their comrade. Dressed like her, barefoot, they seem to be the same age. On the left appears what could be the costume of another child, but the framing is deliberately centered on a restricted space, polarized on the painting and the writing (made or in the process of being made), which attracts and captures all the attention of the various characters. This concentration of light, body and gaze gives a certain intensity to the scene. In the background, the vegetal fiber roofs of two stone houses indicate that the scene takes place in the open air, in the middle of a small village, on a square or on a dirt road.
The adventure of schooling
Several types of contrasts are evident in this photograph. That of the dazzling light returned by the painting and the white fabrics with the projected shadows or the matte complexion of the characters, which gives an exotic atmosphere to the scene. The one made up of the master's costume with the simple ones of the students. Finally, there is a contrast between what is represented, a western school lesson, and the place, where it fits: a small group of houses lost in the middle of the Madagascan forest, bathed in sunlight. The rudimentary nature of the equipment (a simple table drawn up there), the bare feet, remind us of the lack of means: we are far from the classes of 1925 in metropolitan France. He also suggests an improvised class, set up there for the occasion and photography, or at least quite recent. The inscription "the Citroën mission" drawn on the board suggests that this class is possible thanks to the will and private funds of the automobile company. The Black Cruise also included a humanitarian and cultural program developed with the agreement of the authorities, unable to ensure the education of all the natives on their own. The "Citroën mission" notably provided for the creation of schools in the most remote villages. Good publicity for the brand, which showed the performance of its cars, associated them with dreams of adventure and took part in the republican effort (which met with a favorable response from the French public and therefore potential Citroën customers) to develop, everywhere where possible, the French presence and its “civilizing” mission. As this photograph reveals, the expedition thus participates in the construction of a positive representation consistent with what the French Republic then wishes to give.
- Citroën cruises
- colonial history
- Third Republic
Ariane AUDOIN-DUBREUIL, Citroën Cruises: The Black Cruise 1924-1925, Glénat, paris, 2007 Pierre GUILLAUME, The colonial world XIXth-XXth century, 2nd edition, Armand Colin, 1994.Francis KOERNER, History of private and official education in Madagascar 1820-1995, L'Harmattan, Paris, 1999 Antoine LEON, Colonization, Teaching, and Education, historical and comparative study, published by L'Harmattan, Paris, 1991.
To cite this article
Alban SUMPF, “Madagascar. Outdoor writing work ”