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The terracotta relief of Antananarivo

It is a bit hidden on the edge of a street in the district of Andohalo. But those who visit the royal palace of the capital of Madagascar should not simply walk past this piece of history. Directly at the Lalana Ramboatiana between the Rova of Antananarivo and the palace of the Prime Minister (one calls the palace Andafiavaratra) runs approximately 40 meters long terracotta relief.

It was elaborated in the years from 1940 to 1946, allegedly by a Malagasy student. Who actually made it is no longer known. The relief is an extract from Madagascar’s history. From everyday life with men in pirogues fishing to catching a zebu for a ceremony, various situations are depicted.

Left Queen Ranavalona III in a sedan chair, right General Gallieni on a horse

The relief also shows the French general Joseph Gallieni on a horse, probably when he entered Antananarivo in 1896, one year after the occupation of Madagascar’s capital by French troops. Gallieni served as governor-general of Madagascar under the French occupation. The last queen of the Merina, the people of the highlands, is also depicted on the relief, carried in a sedan chair. A few months later she was sent into exile and never returned to her home island.

With these scenes, the terracotta relief depicts a part of Madagascar’s history in amazing details. Unfortunately, nobody has officially taken over the restoration and preservation of the relief and so the historical relief is slowly crumbling away. Nevertheless, during a city tour, one should not miss to pause for a moment and marvel at the great relief.

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