My Malagasy Diaspora Tantara: Diaspora Stories Told Around the World
Today, an estimated 300,000 Malagasy people live outside of Madagascar and live all around the globe. No diaspora story is alike but what we share is that love and connection to Madagascar that we carry in our hearts, new hometowns, and life. Here are our stories.
Today: Robin shares how his tri-cultural upbringing has shaped his understanding of his identity, his love of all cultures, and the unique way he views his world. From France, Reunion, to Madagascar, Robin makes his mark on the world with his love of connecting the world to the Indian Ocean, one island, one step at a time.
Hey everybody! Robin here, I’m 24. Currently I’m in Antananarivo, living and working here since April 2022. It’s been challenging in many ways to move to Madagascar, Tana especially. But it also has and continues to teach me so much about the country of my ancestors, my background, and mostly about myself. Here’s the deal - I have my parents to thank for having Reunionese and Malagasy origins, however, I grew up in France.
I always have been deeply proud and passionate about my attachment to both Madagascar and Réunion Island. My parents raised me with both cultures and it’s always been a joy for me to learn and talk to anyone who would listen about those islands of mine. I always wanted to know more about Réunion and Madagascar which is why very early on, I knew I’d leave France to come back to the Indian Ocean and live there, which thankfully has been made possible.
A friend once told me, referring to my multiple-origin identity, they said, “you’re at the crossroads of the world”. I think that’s a beautiful and very accurate image. Because it’s not easy to figure out where you belong and how you can fit into a community that you’re a part of, but not fully. I noticed that whenever I met a new Gasy or Reunionese person, after they learned about my background, they’d get surprised when they see that I share some aspects of the culture. I remember once, a Malagasy coworker gasped when I told them that with my family in France, I ate Gasy food basically everyday. Then at the same time, I had both Malagasy and Reunionese friends or acquaintances expecting me to know all customs, facts, and cultural references as well as they do but get shocked when I don’t because it was unusual for them to fall upon people like me who are not a 100% part of the community.
It’s a peculiar spot to be in. A lot of times it feels like a perpetual either/or situation. You can only be 100% Gasy or you’re Vazaha. But this is just not representative of my situation. My identity is much more nuanced than that. My identity is as intertwined as a crossroad. The Malagasy part doesn’t end at one particular spot where the Reunionese or the French part begins. Whether I like it or not, I feel like I have a lot to prove to be seen and validated as a Malagasy. Because deep down I want to be accepted as a full Malagasy (and a full Créole) but I know that my story and my path aren’t as simple to define as that. I have to believe that my differences are my strengths, which isn’t always simple because a lot of times my mixed identity can make me feel like an outsider and "less than” compared to fully Malagasy whether they’re diaspora or not.
In other ways, it can be so beautiful when I see how some Reunionese customs or cultural subjects find their roots in Malagasy culture. Living here in Madagascar, after having been in Reunion, made me realize so many things about the cultural impact of both those islands on my life as a whole, through family mindsets, customs, and historical milestones. I’ve always believed in the saying «You gotta know where you come from to know where you’re going» and I’m truly experiencing it now which is a priceless gift. The thing about crossroads is, usually they’re just a passing point, never a destination, you go through them to get to one path or another.
But for me, being at the crossroad is exactly where I belong.