Thursday, 3 May 2018

Bicentenary celebrations

What are we celebrating? An amazing piece of almost-forgotten history that started in disaster when, in 1818, all but one of the first group of Welsh missionaries, sent by the London Missionary Society, died of fever within eleven weeks of landing in Madagascar. The survivor, David Jones, went back to Mauritius to recover but later returned to Madagascar. A third young Welshman, David Griffiths, and his wife Mary arrived there in 1820. 
What followed was truly astonishing: Mary and the two Davids went up to the capital, learnt Malagasy and started schools, with girls included from the very beginning. By 1824, scarcely three years after their arrival, over 2,000 children were in school and being taught in their own language. The two Davids built a chapel and started preaching in Malagasy.  With the help of their most able pupils they then set about translating the Bible and the first complete edition was published in 1835.
At the request of King Radama and using the Roman script, they created a written form of the Malagasy language which is almost perfectly phonetic. As a result, learning to read has been a relatively painless process for generations of Malagasy children ever since.
Various events are planned to mark this bicentenary. Ny Ako, a group of Malagasy singers and dancers, will be touring the UK from 31st May - 18th June. Their programme will be detailed in another blog.  The Welsh Independent Chapels have plans for celebrations from 8th – 10th June in West Wales, from where the first two missionaries came, including a play, a concert and a service of thanksgiving.
Theresa, Co-ordinator of MfM for many years, is putting on a concert in Cardiff on 22nd September featuring Welsh and Malagasy musicians. Details of this will be included nearer the time in another blog. 
Music reaches every part of life in Madagascar and when King George IV sent King Radama the gift of a piano he was overjoyed.  Some of the music composed by him in the 1820s will be performed in this concert.
Paddy Bush, brother of the singer Kate Bush, is Irish, not Malagasy, but he is a fine performer on the Valiha, the national instrument of Madagascar, and will be joining Justin Vali and his group in the Cardiff concert.

We look forward to seeing MfM supporters at one or more of these events.

To find out more information email or to make a donation visit www.moneyformadagascar/donate

By Theresa Haine