First Photowalk in Tana

We’ve had a few weeks to settle into the groove here in Antananarivo (pronounce “tananarive” but more frequently shortened to “tana”) and so we figured it was high time we got out and about with our cameras.  There is so much going on, and so many fascinating street scenes to photograph here – but we haven’t really gotten a feel for whether people are OK with foreigners snapping their photos while they go about their daily lives, as they were in Chennai.  So for this one we are playing it conservative.

Vegetables for Sale

Tana is a different kind of capital city – it is built on hills in the central Malagasy highlands, and these hills are interspersed by low land with a high water table, such that the locals have cleared much of the rich silt that has washed down from the hills to create a network of rice paddies, spearated and demarcated by low “digues” or dikes.  On some days, my commute home takes me past a particular curve in the road where, when the clouds are right, the setting sun combines with the standing water to turn everything a brilliant sunset orange for just a few minutes.  So late one afternoon, that’s where we headed.

Golden Hour


Unfortunately we arrived a bit too early, and everything was still very much blue.  People were hurrying home along the road, and they looked at us quizzically as we took pictures of the view they probably passed every day and considered completely ordinary and un-photograph-worthy.

Banana Grove

Lettuce on the Digues

Here we see where someone has marked out for himself an orderly little lettuce field, and one of the wider digues we walked down was lined by banana plants. I’m not sure how people control who gets to pick (and sell) the bananas that grow here.

So to kill some time, we walked through the nearby neighborhoods.  Most people were busy with their afternoon/evening chores – carrying laundry, or filling big yellow 20-liter water jugs from the neighborhood water poing.  But everyone was extremely friendly, greeting us with “bonjour” and breaking into a wide grin when we not only responded with “bonjour” but also added “manahaona” or “salama”, from the smattering of words we have learned in the Malagasy language mostly spoken by locals.

Bringing home the laundry

Boys Playing


As the light began to turn more and more orange, we headed down this narrow lane, and as we passed a group of giggly teenage girls, the sound of singing grew louder and louder.


I realized that we were passing the open door of a Sunday afternoon church service. We had passed another church earlier, where two groups of 20-25 boy scouts (scouting is very popular here!) were singing in a circle outside the church, but it seemed intrusive to record the scene. But here I paused to record the singing. As I was recording I heard the group of girls call something out in unison, and as I turned the camera in their direction, they began giggling and ran to avoid being captured on video.

As the sky continued to turn more orange and we rushed to get back to our original spot, we passed this community water point where one of the young men who appeared to be administering the point took a moment to demonstrate his martial arts form to the (mostly) young women getting water.  As we walked by, the attention turned to us and our silly Vibram Fivefingers (“toe shoes”), which, in the month we have been here, consistently draw the attention of the locals.


But finally we made it back just as the sun was putting on the best of its sunset performance.

Rice Paddy Sunset

Rice Paddy Sunset

Rice Paddy Sunset

Rice Paddy Sunset

We caught one of the rickety Renault cabs home, excited to look through the photos we had captured, and already planning our next (ad)venture!


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3 Responses to First Photowalk in Tana

  1. Mike McDonald says:

    WOW – thanks for the interesting pictures – I especially like the “walking around” aspect of them – not sure I would be that bold in similar circumstances.

  2. Tom (Admin) says:

    Thanks Mike! We are building up, getting a sense of where is safe and where is not. Hope for more soon!

  3. jdelliott says:

    i enjoy reading about your walkabout and seeing the results.

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