Queen Ranavalona III’s Belongings Returning Home to Madagascar

Queen Ranavalona III in full regalia, standing beside a throne table on which are the Royal crown and sceptre, ca 1890 – 1895

Last December, there was an auction in England of Queen Ranavalona III, the Last Monarch of the Kingdom of Madagascar photographs, letters, and fashion belongings. These were collected by Clara Herbert, who worked for the Madagascan royal family from the late 1890s to the 1920s, and were passed down through her family, and ended up in the attic of a house in Surrey. Auctioneer Kerry Taylor pieced together Ranavalona’s story from the box of photographs, postcards, souvenirs, receipts and diaries and sold them on auction. The government of Madagascar was able to purchase a lot of it. I was quite moved because this is part of the history and pride of Madagascar, and I am glad the government of Madagascar worked to have it returned. Enjoy! Excerpts below are from an article from The Guardian.

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An archive of fashion, photographs and letters telling the remarkable story of the last queen of Madagascar will return home after it was bought at auction by the island’s government.

The jumble of ephemera, along with an ornate 19th-century dress, all relates to the life of Queen Ranavalona III, who was dethroned by the French and exiled to Algiers.

Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar

… The president of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, said: “Madagascar attaches great importance to the acquisition of these royal items as part of the reappropriation of Malagasy national history and cultural heritage. They will be installed in the newly reopened, restored Queen’s palace, where they will be displayed to the general public.

… Taylor [the auctioneer] said she was delighted the archive was heading to Madagascar. … “The queen and princess were separated during their lifetimes from their people and it gives me enormous satisfaction to know that this collection will soon be on its way home where it will be fully appreciated, admired and cared for in perpetuity.”

Proverbe Malgache sur le Présent / Malagasy Proverb on the Present

Souimanga bronze / Bronzy sunbird

Le passé appartient aux ancêtres; l’avenir appartient à Dieu, seul le présent t’appartient (proverbe Malgache – Madagascar).

The past belongs to the ancestors; the future belongs to God, only the present belongs to you (Malagasy proverb – Madagascar).

Queen Ranavalona III, the Last Monarch of the Kingdom of Madagascar

Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar

Today we will talk about the last queen of the Kingdom of Madagascar, Queen Ranavalona III. She reigned from July 30, 1883 to February 28, 1897. Like many African kings and queens of the late 1800s and early 1900, she was deposed by the European colonizer, in this case the French, and sent into exile first on the island of Reunion, and then later in Algeria (just like the King of Dahomey, Béhanzin) where she died, never to see her native Madagascar again.

Map of modern-day Madagascar

Who was Ranavalona III? Well, as her name goes, she was the third Malagasy queen with the name Ranavalona. She became queen after the death of her grand-aunt, queen Ranavalona II. Ranavalona III was born Princess Razafindrahety in 1861. She was raised as a protestant, and taught by instructors from the London Missionary Society. Upon completion of her education, she married nobleman Ratrimo, but he died under suspicious circumstances in May 1883, just 2 months after Queen Ranavalona II’s passing. Rumor had it that the prime minister Rainilaiarivony had poisoned her husband, Ratrimo so as not to relinquish power. The young princess then ascended the throne of Madagascar at the tender age of 22, on July 13, 1883. It is said that she was chosen over her older sister, Rasendranoro, because of her conciliatory nature which the prime minister and other members of the Andriana looked for.

Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony of Madagascar

At the time of Ranavalona III’s ascension, Madagascar was navigating a shift from absolute rule (power in the hands of the king/queen) to constitutional monarchy. Under the new system, true authority was vested in the prime minister: in this case, Rainilaiarivony, who secured his grasp on power by marrying the newly crowned—and recently widowed—queen. In accordance with tradition, Rainilaiarivony had previously wed both of Ranavalona III’s predecessors, Ranavalona II and Rasoherina. Lucky man, wouldn’t you think? One man married to 3 successive queens! Probably the only one in history (this will be the story for another day)! Rainilaiarivony largely oversaw the day-to-day governance of the kingdom and managed its foreign affairs.

Illustration of France implanting its protectorate on Madagascar

As a queen, Ranavalona III inherited a kingdom which was assaulted by the French who wanted her country to be part of their protectorate. Throughout her reign, she tried to strengthen trade and diplomatic relations with the United States and Great Britain, in an effort to keep the French at bay. In 1886, the queen solicited U.S. intervention to help protect Madagascar from the French but was ignored. She, like many kings and queens of Africa back then, was probably not aware of the scramble for Africa, and the Berlin Conference (Selection from the 1885 Berlin Conference Final Act, The Berlin Conference 1884 – 1885 – Final Act (Continuation)), where Europeans allocated areas of the continent to themselves. She was forced to sign a treaty that gave France a certain control of Madagascar in order to prevent war, but the French wanted full control over Madagascar and did not back down. Ranavalona III successfully kept the French at bay until 1896 when the French declared Madagascar as their colony. Repeat French attacks on coastal port towns and an assault on the capital city of Antananarivo ultimately led to the capture of the royal palace in 1895, ending the sovereignty and political autonomy of the century-old kingdom (French Colonial Treaty in Madagascar : 18 January 1896).

Queen Ranavalona III

The newly installed French colonial government promptly exiled prime minister Rainilaiarivony to Algiers, Algeria. Ranavalona and her court were initially permitted to remain in Madagascar as symbolic figureheads, but the outbreak of a popular resistance movement – the menalamba rebellion – and discovery of anti-French political intrigues at court led the French to exile the queen to the island of Réunion on February 27, 1897.

Queen Ranavalona III with her grandniece Marie-Louise ca 1905 in exile in Algiers, Algeria

Rainilaiarivony died that same year in Algiers, and shortly thereafter Ranavalona was relocated to a villa in Algiers, along with several members of her family. Despite Ranavalona’s repeated requests, she was never permitted to return home to Madagascar. Like many African kings and queens, she was deported (Deportation of African Heads of States). She died of an embolism at her villa in Algiers on May 3, 1917 at the age of 55. Her remains were buried in Algiers but were disinterred 21 years later and shipped to Madagascar, where they were placed within the tomb of Queen Rasoherina on the grounds of the Rova of Antananarivo (Rova de Manjakamiadana). you remember Queen Ranavalona III, remember that she was a queen who fought against the foreign invasion to the best of her ability, but above all remember that all she wanted was the independence of her people and culture.

African Bird: The Bronzy Sunbird (Souimanga Bronzé)

I just found another species of birds in my mother’s garden. It is called the Souimanga in Malagasy which has been adopted as its name in French, or simply sunbird in English. In the case at hand, it is the Souimanga bronzé or bronzy sunbird known by its scientific name as Nectarinia kilimensis; it is very close to the Souimanga de Mariqua or Marico sunbird. It is native of Sub-Saharan Africa. Its coat is quite shiny and irridescent. Its flight is quick, similar to the American hummingbird. As you can see, this pretty visitor has a shiny green coat sparsed with black, and a red underbelly; it feeds on flower nectar. The shiny metallic color indicates that our visitor is a male. Enjoy!

When the Kilimanjaro Leads to Happy Corals !

Mt Kilimanjaro (Source: KidsKonnect.com)

What does the Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on African soil, have to do with corals in the ocean? Well, it turns out that there are channels of cool water that developed millions of years ago under the Mt Kilimanjaro, and these end in the Indian ocean off the coast of Mombasa. With the recent warming of the oceans, this cool water meets the ocean right on the coast to create a sort of marine sanctuary for corals, dolphins, and even species taught to be extinct. Enjoy excerpts below from the article at the Guardian!

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Scientists have discovered a climate crisis refuge for coral reefs off the coast of Kenya and Tanzania, where species are thriving despite warming events that have killed their neighbours.

The coral sanctuary is a wildlife hotspot, teeming with spinner dolphins and boasting rare species, including prehistoric fish and dugongs. Researchers believe its location in a cool spot in the ocean is helping to protect it and the surrounding marine life from the harmful effects of the climate crisis.

[Tim] McClanahan, the lead scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, who lives and works in Mombasa, Kenya, said he had an “epiphany” when he realised why the reef was so rich in wildlife. The coastline has the highest density of dolphins in east Africa, and coelacanths, fish once believed extinct, swim in its deep waters. “I thought ‘why are all the animals here?’ And I realised it was because of Kilimanjaro,” he said.

The coral refuge, which stretches from Shimoni, 50 miles south of Mombasa, in Kenya to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, is fed by cool water from deep channels formed thousands of years ago by glacial runoff from Mt Kilimanjaro and the Usambara mountains.

When a Piece of Wood is not just ANY Piece of Wood: Findings from the Great Pyramid of Giza

Great Pyramid of Giza (Source: Wikipedia)

There was a recent discovery of a long lost artifact from the Great Pyramid of Giza, this is one of only three objects ever recovered from inside the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. It was found in… Scotland… at the University of Aberdeen. The wooden fragments were obtained by engineer Waynman Dixon inside the pyramid’s Queens Chamber in 1872, which he offered to someone at the university as a gift. The artifact has been carbon-dated to be about 5000 years old, to the period 3341-3094 BC – some 500 years earlier than historical records which date the Great Pyramid to the reign of the Pharaoh Khufu  in 2580-2560 BC. This raises important question given that they are older than the pyramid… so could they have been part of an older structure, or just part of a tree buried with the pharaoh for continuity ? For the full article, go to the Guardian.

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Curatorial assistant Abeer Eladany, originally from Egypt, was reviewing items in the university’s Asia collection when she came across a cigar box marked with her country’s former flag.

Inside she found several wooden splinters which she then identified as a fragment of wood from the Great Pyramid which has been missing for more than a century. …

The Taro and Its Neighbors

Dotted taro leaf

From its large leaves, the taro collected water and without gathering any for itself, or absorbing enough, watered its neighbors who bloomed and produced abundantly. For the benefit of others, generous taro forgot itself.

When the dry season came, it was the first to suffer from the lack of water. Turning to its neighbors who had great reserves, it begged them to share enough to survive until the rainy season. Everyone closed their door to its face and fell back on their complacency.

It is while dying that he understood that forgetting oneself for the benefit of others is a failure and that one must always be satisfied before adding to others.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 59 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y.Afrolegends.com

HAPPY 2021!

Fireworks
Fireworks

Precious readers, wishing you all a HAPPY 2021! May this new year mark the beginning of new endeavors, the continuation of current ones, and/or the end of old ones. May it be filled with greatness, success, joy, love, happiness, abundance, harmony, and peace!  I know 2020 was quite a year, and that many are hoping for something better. Let us leave behind the baggage, and be prepared to take off for this new year, never losing altitude during this flight, and trusting for better.

The top 5 posts of the year 2020 are listed below. We, at Afrolegends.com, would like to express our profound gratitude for your constant support, as your readership has carried us forward. Keep on visiting, sharing, and commenting.  I wish you all wonders without borders, grace, and peace for 2021! Keep your heads up, and may your year be as beautiful as the petals of this flower! As you can see, everything about this flower marks the beginning of something beautiful: a new start, a new life, and a new joy! As always, like Agostinho Neto said, “A luta continua … a vitória é certa!

Happy 2021

1. Adinkra Symbols and the Rich Akan Culture

2. Kente Cloth: An Ashanti Tradition dating Centuries back

3. ‘Love Poem for my Country’ by Sandile Dikeni

4. Scarification: an ‘Ancient’ African Tattoo Culture

5. Samori Touré: African Leader and Resistant to French Imperialism!