Episode 3 of “Artisans” Published!

Eons ago (ok, October last year) I posted the first episode in a series of mini-documentaries about jobs in the informal sector in Madagascar, about the traveling blacksmiths that wander through the city repairing umbrellas, plastic tubs, roofs…

A couple of weeks later, the second episode, about brickmakers. And then, for a long time, nothing. I had recorded the footage for two more episodes, and with the help of my Malagasy language teacher, eventually translated the footage, but I didn’t think the stories were quite complete. My friend Safidy, who created Zanaky ny Lalana, was busy building a new house, but we finally found the time to head back out to La Reunion Kely to gather what turned out to be excellent footage. I had repaired my drone and re-shot the aerial scenes I had missed the first time (I forgot to record!).

I didn’t realize Safidy had arranged for Benja, my subject, to create a piece of jewelry from start to finish – more than two hours of recording – and I didn’t have enough battery juice to finish. Luckily, Safidy stepped in and shot some great macro footage with his Olympus camera, supplemented with what I could gather on my iPhone and we made it work.

Then came my departure from Madagascar, a long period of leave in Oregon during which I thought I’d edit video but never managed to, and a move to Burundi. Finally, a year later, I finished this episode – I think the best yet in the series, about Benja, who left his job as a truck driver and retreated to La Reunion Kely, an informal settlement in Antananarivo, to create jewelry from discarded metal or old coins.

Benja made a vangovango, a traditional Malagasy bracelet, from discarded aluminum cable, and it was amazing to watch him work. In the end, I insisted on buying the finished product, for which he wanted 12,000 Malagasy francs (about $2.40) but needless to say I paid him a bit extra for his time. It was fascinating to see him work, using tools he had adapted or created from discarded materials to shape his artistic creation.

And so now I am pleased to announce the completed video, which will form an integral part of my grad school application(s). I’m pretty proud of how it turned out – please give it a look so it will have lots of views by the time the selection committee has a look!

There will be one final (fourth) episode in this series. The background music you hear throughout all three episodes, played on a traditional Malagasy valiha – I’ve interviewed the gentleman who plays that music, and made the instrument on which it is played. But that will be done once I submit my college apps. Until then, I hope you enjoy seeing how Benja upcycles discarded metal to create jewelry!

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