Backyarding, a term I found myself repeating as we wandered through the passageways. I’ve always found the word “corridor” a bit confining – it seems to encase you within its walls. Surprisingly, you adapt to the concept quicker than you’d expect. our pace steady between walls. No fancy “tamboho gasy” out here, yet you remain firmly grounded. It’s curious to discuss the ground and earth while knowing most of the land is piled earthwork or composed of waste. Essentially, we were within Tana’s largest shack towns perched on a landfill. Not marshes or wetlands, and certainly no longer paddy fields. You could even use the poetic term “polder.”

Backyarding, an urban planner’s term that seems to fit any European town from the industrial revolution era. Yet, when you’re in downtown Basse Ville Tana, it feels odd to employ this expression, even though the people here are incredibly industrious. They’d rather call the place “Bas Quarts” by the way. sounds the same. means different. Remember the former bamboo market? now replaced by the strange concept of a multi-level market (they’re quite fond on elevating marketplaces over the past 4 years. it makes no sense at all. and ironically always fails flat to the ground). I recall yet another client nearby, situated in the shady districts, owning one of the most successful workshops in town. We passed it on our way, before getting caught in the labyrinth of paths, corridors, buffer basins, ponds, and unassuming flower gardens that seem never-ending.

Back to backyarding then. The “fokontany” is raking in money from it, and no one’s really complaining. Of course, nobody’s doing the math on public sanitation statistics and benefits. No one’s truly worrying how often we encounter very young children adeptly (and unjustly) transporting heavy yellow water barrels, while we, wannabe tightrope walkers, struggle for balance on the “chemin de traverses.”

Ownership. Oh, those are the “mpiavy” even though they settled more than 15 years ago. These are “raianmandreny,” although they tarnished the privileges by mismanaging their elders’ status. It’s all a tangled mess, isn’t it? I asked just before a broil erupted nearby. I’ve seen so little of them during my urban errands. It’s way too early, and by the way, where’s the smell of “ravitoto”? They don’t cook. They eat at “gargotes”. sleep. go to work. drink. sleep. I thought this was home for them. They’re just renting sleep. I was told.

Backyarding, as you hold vast property and rent most of the available land to families in need, providing them with a place to sleep close to their workplaces and reducing transportation expenses. Yes, they’re simply sleeping here, renting slumber. They leave their kids to roam all day under the watchful eye of a diligent RF2 Mama. She’s meticulous and dedicated to her duties. her home is spotless. She’s the heart of the fokontany. In my dreams of “trano gasy” with gardens protected by low “tamboho gasy,” I found Matrones. They are the ones to be preserved, celebrated and held as examples.

By the way, the beaux gosses sent an invitation to their Circus event. Though not exactly performers and unlike the ones from the list we will have to vote for at the end of the year : they always are the first to pitch in to clean the canals. “It canalizes their spirit and energy,” I joked. Unbeknownst to me I discovered they do much more. Just like Matrones the grandmas in these overlooked and feared parts of the City, they keep the flame alive. Bodybuilders, rugby players, dockworkers… when everything else seems to crumble, ignored, deemed informal and questionable, the community relies on them to uphold and illuminate their dignity.

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