Seventy-two contemporary artists are helping Madagascar. Using as their base materials doors and shutters hand-carved by Zafimaniry people from the high plateaux of Madagascar, they have created 72 works that invite us to look at Zafimaniry culture side by side with contemporary art. All proceeds from the sale of these works will go to help disadvantaged populations living on less than one US dollar a day. The inhabitants of the village of Antoetra, the source of Zafimaniry expertise, will thus have access to water, health, education and a dignified environment that respects their culture.
These doors and shutters hand-carved by the Zafimaniry are being exhibited in France for the first time. The skills of Zafimaniry sculptors have been placed by UNESCO since 2008 on the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Christie's is hosting the Artist Angels for Madagascar exhibition and sale gratis
Madagascars needs are immense. Painters, sculptors, architects and designers are helping. In spite of the great efforts of many local people to improve what are very difficult situations, there is still much to do. Because extremely deprived populations lack access to water, medical care (even of the most basic kind), a healthy environment, and any possibility of education; because Zafimaniry culture, the foundation of the Zafimaniry people, is being destroyed by deforestation; because Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on the planet; -- for all these reasons, seventy-two wellknown artists have come forward in a great movement of mutual aid to reveal to the world the Zafimaniry sculptors and their living conditions. Taking as their starting point the doors and shutters sculpted by the craftsmen of Antoetra village, they have produced seventy-two unique, surprising, hybrid works of art that stir special emotions.
These Artist Angels are donating their work to support Villages and People, an NGO that seeks to preserve the dignity of the most deprived people.
Artist Angels for Madagascar: 72 works with two faces
"I can change by exchanging with other people, without losing myself or changing my nature", as Edouard Glissant used to say.
That was no doubt the principle that inspired the artists when those magnificently sculpted doors and shutters arrived in their studios after a 10,000-km journey from Antoetra. That unexpected encounter with the otherness of these objects generated enthusiasm, freedom, a desire that opened up the imagination. The emotion, vitality and commitment of each artist are here to be experienced in this spontaneous exhibition.
Each work has two faces, one the expression of ancestral skills, the other that of contemporary art. Each piece is a fusion of the work of four hands, startling the observer into an aesthetic and philosophical double take.
A humanistic approach
Proof that art is necessarily a shared activity.
Zafimaniry means "descendants of those who longed ..."
The Zafimaniry (pronounced zafmanir), who live between the treeless Betsileo country on one side and the Tanala country where a few forests remain on the other, have inherited the disadvantages of both - the cold and the damp. A country of mists perched on the edge of the high plateaux that form the spine of the island, in the south east of Madagascar.
But when the sun lights up their village, the wonderful sculpted wood panelling and architecture of their houses is picked out in all its beauty, revealing the skills and talents of the Zafimaniry.
As the heirs of this beautiful craft, the Zafimaniry hand down their ancestral knowledge from generation to generation.
The forest is the environment that nurtures both them and their culture. The various taboos they still hold to mark a deep respect for nature and the forest in particular and they must pay a sacrifice before touching a tree or the forest. Economically, therefore, they prize frugality, because to remain a "Zafimaniry" requires the integrity of the forest and of the people who live in it.
Their knowledge is expressed in the architecture of their houses with their typical braided bamboo roofs. They are held together entirely by mortise and tenon joints, and the shutters, doors, beams and everyday objects are imprinted with the sculpted motifs which represent symbolic cultural values (solidarity, hospitality and respect for the ancestors).
These geometrical motifs reveal not only the Austronesian origins of the community but also the Arabic influences which pervade Madagascan culture. Although the number of motifs is limited, the creativity of the craftsmen in combining these motifs is such that no two pieces are identical.
Taming the spirits of the forest
The signs engraved on the doors and window shutters facing the four points of the compass stand for the suns rays, the honeycomb and the beehive which form the ideal community. There is also the bird that always sees from afar, the snake, the wise master of the forest paths, and the spider, a little creature with a large territory. Laid out in esoteric combinations, these signs reflect the popular beliefs of the Madagascans and their relationships with the invisible world.
The action programmes of "Des Villages et Des Hommes" NGO
Programmes are drawn up in consultation with the local people, who are necessarily involved operationally. Careful attention is paid to protecting the environment and creating a local economy, the two indispensable pillars of a sustainable conflict-free development that is so important for a stable future.
In Zafimaniry country, to support the 500 inhabitants of Antoetra village:
- in 2013 and 2014, renovate the thirty historic houses of the village of Antoetra and build twenty new houses using traditional construction methods. Build washing facilities and water points for the village
- develop a local economy
- a proposal for a tree nursery is being looked at. The aim is to regenerate the forest near the village, as this will be vital to the long-term survival of Zafimaniry art and culture.
To help 150 children and teenagers currently in prison:
- provide permanent medical monitoring (care, examinations and preventive care) and improve living conditions and hygiene (easier access to water, food aid, etc.)
In north-west Madagascar, to support indigenous populations:
- renovate the village of Antrema, population 150, by completing the village rebuilding program (30 houses, a school, washing and toilet facilities, and a library).
Start building a new village for around one hundred people on the island of Nosy Komba.