The Graveyard Generation

“ None of us Malagasy put flowers on graves. We think white people do that pushed by the fear they have faced with death. They somehow want to make the idea of death “prettier” with flowers. You westerners put flowers on tombs to make the sight of death easier. ”

Anjanahary Cemetery is one of the only and by far the biggest graveyard in Madagascar. Classified by the government as a Red Code Area for what concerns security, it is considered to be one of the most dangerous place in Antananativo, whose intricate maze of graves and crypts became a perfect sanctuary for fugitives, thieves, fences, drug dealers and drugs addicted trying to elude the police. A local guide publicly warned: “Don’t go there especially when it gets dark, not because of ghosts or some weird things, but because there are bad guys living there, thieves and other malicious people waiting for preys and smoking crack”.

What the government isn’t saying is that the graveyard is populated mostly by children: after the coup d’état in 2009 a rising number of children happened to be orphaned or abandoned, ending up to live in the streets or wherever they managed to find a roof for free. Anjanahary cemetery became a place where rejected children could find a home, living together as a family, a complex society with its own rules and laws.

Since Malagasy jealously keep their ancestors close to their everyday life and don’t build monumental graveyards, Anjanahary cemetery represents an anomaly according to their beliefs: having been built by French colonizers and Chinese emigrants workers, the graveyard is considered to be a foreign territory, a place where white dead are abandoned to the cold loneliness of the earth.

Won’t be surprising then that the Graveyard Generation, sustained by petty thefts, turned this silent place into their own playground, playing all day long and eating among the graves, resting on the big grass field surrounding the mass grave for the infectious plague deceased.

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