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Construction in the Merina and Betsileo area has been always a matter of solid materials. Only within those two tribes you'd see traditional mud hoses, elsewhere traditional walls are made of woodbarks, strong & large leaves.
And Merina people love their mud enclosure walls. Sometimes, when I pass near them, I still can notice either some hay straws in the mud either cow pooh! Or maybe were there straws that cows had eaten ? lol
Anyway, I don't know how the ancient engineers used to erect those solid and thick walls. They were very popular. They served to protect hamlets from strangers. However, when wealth is there, a circular, rectangular wall can protect only one rich household.
Here in Lazaina, conservation effort will be applied to this set on the picture as well.
Both on mud or brick-walled houses and mud enclosure walls, I love the play of red-pink-orange light on the carmin walls when sun is setting. Very warm and special. One can witness that while wandering in the countryside.
Updated Oct 23, 2007
The most pleasant way to discover the area is to walk.
Because most curiosities of this Lazaina village are within the village, within the hands of its inhabitants, in their houses, even in their tombs. I talk about culture.
Be you interested in their way of life, their so-called tamboho gasy (mud enclosure walls), their architecture, you need to stroll around.
Be aware though that Lazaina is not a touristic place albeit containing some cultural treasuries and historical sites. Have some respect for its calm, modest inhabitants.
Written Mar 25, 2006
Address: 15-17km on your way to Ambohimanga, turn left
This is the home of an officer of the ancient Royal army. The Royal era ended late 19th whilst Officer Rabeony's house was reportedly built 19th century. As part of the conservation effort that Lazaina is deploying to keep its historical & cultural sites, the house will be restaured for its architecture, style and prestige. So far, no conservation effort was made to keep it.
Although this is not the very traditional mud-walled trano gasy, this is what we, in Tana area, use to call a "traditional house", i.e as compared to the purely European styles (Scandinavian villas in Antsirabe European area, French villas all over the province). But looking closer at it, one would notice a style that is partly inspired (I heard) from the 18th-century style. French ? Scandinavian ? Colonial ? I think it is rather the colonial style that left some features on this setting.
About this Merina style, it is often made of a narrow building with a basement, a first storey and the attic. Houses in the countryside used to have their basements designed to grain storages (rice harvests, corn...) and as places to keep tools used in countryside everyday life: pads, buckets... Then, upstairs are storeys for the family. Sometimes, the kitchen is in the basement too as they can be in the attic.
Brickwalls are used here, not painted. But then, when painted, you'll see very often white or carmin walls. See the middle part of the house on the pic ? It seemed to be carmin in the past. I don't know why but it has been always like that.
This house, though in quite bad (& decreasing) shape, features some nice details: the design of the chimney, the festooned wood of the roof. I also like the veranda. A tad sophisicated compared to the average building in the area (like the one that my grand-grand-dad had built). In Merina houses, a veranda could be a wooden one (some wood lumbers off the facade on which is build a veranda). That is very common. This one is all with bricks though, more solid but with some stylish design.
Updated Mar 24, 2006
Ranivo Maritiora tomb uses to attract locals who either are pilgrims, either hit the area for some historical trip. At primary school, Ranivo was amongst most-cited martyrs in history lessons.
She (yes, a SHE) was born around 1832-34 (sorry, don't know exact year). On March 28 1849 (at 16), she was reportedly attending the killing of four of her friends, as martyrs. The four bodies were rolled from the top of Analamanga hill, at Ampahamarinana: a cliff next to the Manjakamiadana palace, from where Queen Ranavalona I used to put to death Christians (as she wanted to keep the traditional belief system).
That day, Ranivo Maritiora was shown the atrocity to be convinced to leave Christianism. In vain. She didn't & asked to be put to death as a martyr. She was then proclaimed "sick in the mind" & was just sent home & sold (as a slave). Her death occured far far later: in 1854.
On picture 1, her tomb... a large large tomb compared to the average.
Picture 2, Jean Laborde's oven.. Jean Laborde was a kind of engineer (shipwrecked in the 1840s) who helped many of the 19th cent Kings & Queens to plan works & executed them himself (w/ the help of a few Europeans & thousands of locals). Reported to have introduced some technology in weapon making, in industrial domains (produced iron, steel, muskets, gunpowder, light cannons, metal-working lathes, watermills, glass, machine-spun cotton, spinning machinery...). Not a popular person because sent by Napoléon 3rd to establish French influence on the island... but was in acquaintancy with the Kings & Queens. The same Ranavalona I who countered European influence (incl. Christianism) was so grateful she gave him distinctions. Very little she knew about the turns of history when she asked him to create the country's engineering & industrial complex.
Now, why are Ranivo Maritiora tomb & Jean Laborde's oven (to make cannons) in the same compound ? After all, Mantasoa industrial & engineer complex is some 200km from Tana & not in Lazaina.Will have to fetch the reason.
Updated Jul 19, 2006
Favorite thing: This is a village I used to pass through while commuting, as a scholar. 4 times a day, for many years... So many that I got used to see it as a village I pass through rather than a point of great interest. Still, my Mum showed us very early the historical site she knew and many know: the tomb of a well-known Christian martyr, the late Ranivo (asa "Ranivo Maritiora"). In fact, I suspect it was the location of her tomb in this village that got the latter known to the Man-in-the-street.
However, strolling in the area, you would notice it is not the average rural village of Tana, let alone of Madagascar. In the past, most houses used to be traditional, style and richness in ornaments getting along with the prestige and wealth of their owners. To the peasants from slave origin, the small mud huts, thatched roof. To the wealthier peasants, mostly from noble or freemen origin, landowners-cum-farmers, a more sophisticated style. Either mud-walled & thatched-roof one-storey narrow houses either similar houses with more modern materials: brick-walled, tiled-roof, painted white or carmin. Then, the most prestigious have their houses in brick, tiled-roof, one or two-storey but with a remarkable style, richer details. It is the category in which falls the house of Rabeony. He was a Royal Army Officer in the 19th century...
Lazaina has many of the ancient sophisticated houses (trano gasy), be they belongings to wealthy peasants or to prestigious persons. (picture 2)
That is the historical village of Lazaina. But the Lazaina of nowadays has another part that houses villas and big domains. Some of the villas are visible from the principal artera, others not. Big domains are nestled in the valley of Lazaina with tennis courts, swimming pool, other sport facilities. Still, it is not a residential area. Most of those villas have been there since the 70s (or even before).
Fondest memory: While living in urban Tana & building our then summer house that has turned out to be our first house in Malaza, it is not unusual that we had a stop over Lazaina. To pick goyava from goyava trees near the Ranivo maritiora tomb & in the nearby. To have a stroll because it was already some opportunity to breath the fresh air.
That was in the 70s... before we moved to the "summer house"
Wild fruits available everywhere
Updated Jul 19, 2006