Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Attending a weaving class with Malagasy women is a moving and humbling experience.

Woven crafts - Saint Luce region - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Over the course of an hour, they create beautiful, intricate patterns with speed, grace and dexterity.

They also show a welcome lack of judgement over this particular reporter's weaving skills. Although after an hour or so I was getting the hang of it.

There is something disarming and natural about sitting with Madagascan villagers whilst they work on these crafts. Perhaps an element of the frenetic lifestyle we have created in Western societies drifts away, enabling a calmer and more pensive way of thinking.

Village - Saint Luce region - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Then again there are polarities also. Weaving represents one of the few income sources available to villagers in this part of the world. It is hard work, requiring concentration and good eyesight.

Equally, it brings to mind relative questions surrounding the balance between financial realities. An hour's weaving cost me 5,000 Ariary, about £2.

This covers all materials, teaching, some woven crafts, a priceless experience and moments with some of the most charming and charismatic people I have ever met.

In the EU, US or many other parts of the world, few people would even consider getting out of bed for £2 an hour. Yet here the idea is welcomed with a smile, a laugh and the most benign and beautiful attitude imaginable.

The lessons take place in the midst of the village, surrounded by the realities and hardships of village life.

Here there is little or no external power. No sewerage system. No police, no healthcare. Women in childbirth will deal on their own, without a midwife, hospital ward or painkilling drugs, with however their individual case develops.

Open air stoves pollute the local atmosphere and the lungs of women cooking for families. Children run and skip in the dust, mostly without shoes and clad in second hand football T shirts from the West, often torn and filthy.

In the midst of this is found the most welcoming and empathetic human nature imaginable. The contrasts between money, development, society, happiness and friendship have rarely been better demonstrated.

Village - Saint Luce region - Madagascar - Giles Crosse

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