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Photographer based in MADAGASCAR
Citizen perception of the Authority in Malagasy rural areas
ANKAZOTA LOCALITY - EFIONJONANE says he is the King of the Mahafaly ethnic group. He's 80 years old. Its power extends over the whole Mahafaly land (South-West Madagascar). Its official title is "Mpanjaka Mahafaly Linta". He proudly quotes the names of the ancient kings: his grandfather Mpanjaka Tsiverena and his father Mpanjaka Tsihazoa. He presents us his son Ehovelo who will become king after his death. There is no evidence that he is descended from the Mahafaly kings, but he shows with pride his decoration as a Knight of the National Order awarded by President Ravalomanana in 2006. He speaks of a woman who appears everywhere in the press and who claims to be the descendant of the Mahafaly kings. He affirms that she is a usurper and that only Zanahary (Malagasy animist God) will know how to recognize the truth anyway. The Mpanjaka Mahafaly receives us on the land where he lives and was born. This place is sacred and I am not allowed to photograph from the side where his house is located. A simple hut of wood and thatch. We discuss under an old sacred tamarind tree; it is here that all the battles and all the resolutions of the problems of the Mahafaly ethnic group were decided according to him. The Mpanjaka has no administrative power. But local administrations (town hall, fokontany) recognize his authority and consult him regularly for advice. His role is more social and religious. His power was conferred on him by Zanahary directly. He decides the "fady" (taboo), levies a tax if necessary, and also helps people in financial need.