Quai Branly Tokyo— “Voices of the Holy Spirits – Madagascar, Island of Curiosities”


poster for Quai Branly Tokyo— “Voices of the Holy Spirits – Madagascar, Island of Curiosities”

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*To prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Intermediatheque will be closed for the time being, starting Wednesday March 4.

The seventh installation of Quai Branly Tokyo consists of ritual tools from Madagascar. In “Sindbad the Sailor,” a huge bird appears, holding off an elephant high in the sky. This type of story involving ominous birds is commonly found throughout southeastern Asia and India all the way to the Arab world, each region attributing a different name to the bird – Garuda, Roc, Rukk.

In the 13th century, Marco Polo in his “Travels” relates the hearsay according to which a fantastic bird lives on the eastern tip of Africa, in “Mogadishu” (current Somalia). The similarity in pronunciation led some to think it was Madagascar. Since the Age of Exploration, sailors and adventurers all repeated this mistake, and it was eventually thought that Madagascar was the island of fantastic birds. When Westerners entered the Modern era, the belief that Madagascar was an island full of curiosities persisted.

In fact, Madagascar, located 400 kilometers away from the southeastern part of the African continent, is known as a trove of rare fauna and flora including many endemic species, largely due to its topography comprising three mountains reaching almost 3000 meters in altitude. In this island floating above the West Indian Ocean, Austronesian peoples arrived in the 4th century B.C. from the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia by taking advantage of the Westerlies; in the 10th century, the Bantu people came from eastern Africa, giving birth to a unique culture blending southeast Asia and Africa: Hence the eclectic and complex spiritual life of people referred to as Malagasy.

Ritual tools reflecting the island’s religion, sorcery, and ceremonies have given birth to forms not seen elsewhere. The materials used may be common to African tribal art, yet the delicate craftsmanship seen in the contours is clearly Asian.



from April 16, 2019 to April 05, 2020
Closed from February 25th - March 3rd.



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