National Geographic : 1967 Oct
earth. Eroding rains have washed away much of the organic matter in the denuded soil, leaving a very high proportion of oxidized aluminum and iron salts. As we flew southward toward Antanana rivo, the capital (the French spell it Tanana rive), the ocher hills, dusted with yellow green, rose toward the mountains that run the length of Madagascar. In folds between the hills lay dark wedges of forest. Pockets of water caught the light as we passed (page 457). Malagasy Ancestry Lies to the East It was December, the beginning of the aus tral summer, and the rice fields of the high valleys were flooded with rain. The tender green of the young rice lay on the red earth as though a palette knife had spread rectangles of vivid color on the valley floors. At the airport I was struck by the appear ance of the Malagasy (pronounced MAHL-a GAHSH-y). Brown-skinned and fine-boned, with straight black hair and large luminous eyes, many of them would have passed un noticed on the streets of Bangkok or Papeete. The highland Malagasy, though close to Africa, are not of it. They call themselves Malayo-Polynesians, and their ancestors came, according to linguistic, cultural, and anthropological evidence, from somewhere in southeastern Asia. How and when they came to Madagascar is one of the major enigmas of the "Mysterious Island." In the taxi I took to Antananarivo a sign in French read: "City, 100 francs. Upper city, 150 francs. Corteges, Marriages, Funerals, Exhumations, Price to be Debated." I asked the driver about the exhumations. "We Malagasy," he said, "open the tombs of our ancestors every now and then, and wrap the bodies in new shawls, so as not to leave them in nakedness. "You come from America? If a man has plenty of money, and likes the busy life, that's the place. But if he wants a tranquil life, on little money, let him come to Madagascar. "I was going to take a job in your country. Teen-age dandy with a statesman's stance adorns himself with a tasseled breechclout and a comb hung from a forelock. His Mahafaly people, pos sibly of Arab and African ancestry, dwell in the far south, a region of arid grazing lands where families measure wealth by the size of cattle herds. Dignity and natural poise characterize all the tribes. 447 When the American consul gave me the pa pers, I read the address; it was 4500 Some thing Street in Chicago. When I saw that, I tore up the document. Any place that has street addresses in four figures is not for me." Antananarivo, 4,000 feet above sea level, rises theatrically from the plain and is built on hills (following pages). The houses of the old town, like overlapping rectangles of pink, brown, and blue in a cubist painting, cluster round and beneath the austere outline of the century-old gray stone Palace of the Queen. Today Tana, as the French call it, is burst ing at the hills, and surrounding rice fields are being drained to build housing develop ments for the teeming population. The straight and flat approaches leading into the lower FKTACHROME (Z N.G..