comoros and mayotte


Faraway, so Close


Floating in the Mozambique Channel, between the northern tips of Madagascar and Mozambique, are the Comoros, a handsome four-island nation sprayed across a volcanic archipelago. Grande Comore, the largest island, Mohéli and Anjouan form the self-governed Union of the Comoros; the fourth, Mayotte, remains a contested French overseas department.
In the days of package tourism, its stretches of white beaches, palm trees and warm sea (home to the world’s largest crab, biggest clam and oldest fish respectively) were once Comoros’ claims to fame. Those days are long gone, however. Most people, nowadays, have never heard of the third smallest country in Africa.

Moraingy A weaponless, bare-fisted striking style of traditional martial art that originated during the Maroseranana dynasty (1675–1896) of the Sakalava Kingdom of western coastal Madagascar. It has since become popularized throughout Madagascar, but particularly in coastal regions, and has spread to neighboring Indian Ocean islands including Réunion, Mayotte, Comoros, Seychelles and Mauritius. Participation in this form of combat was originally limited to young men, allowing elders to judge their physical fitness and strength while providing an opportunity for the youth to gain prestige and test their abilities. Today, while the average age of participants is still between 10 and 35, young people of both genders may practice the sport. Participants are called kidabolahy (young men) or kidabo mpanao moraingy (young people who practice moraingy) and are widely respected and even feared by fellow villagers. In the North, they are called Fagnorolahy, and the assistants, magnafo. Moraingy matches must by tradition be accompanied by music (often salegy) to induce a trance-like state in the fighters and participants, contributing to the spiritual and communal experience of the fight. As part of this experience, participants typically engage in dances during and between the matches that are meant to provoke the supporters of the opposing party, while the crowd cheers and jeers loudly. A typical moraingy competition consists of a series of matches pitting two fighters, typically from different villages, against one another. Prior to the fight, all the fighters parade around in the outdoor arena (typically a soccer field) to size up and select their potential adversaries, while the spectators who ring the field cheer, sing and attempt to provoke the fighters. The matches are announced and each clan sings its own chant in support of the fighter from its village. Each match lasts only one round and ends when one of the fighters exits the arena, faints, is no longer able to defend himself, is clearly unequal to the other, or is determined to be seriously injured. The judges of the match declare a victor and no contesting of the determination is permitted; both participants are cheered by the spectators for their efforts in the match. Moraingy is considered a half-distance or long-range fighting sport with punches predominating but with some kicks permitted. Types of punches include straight punches (mitso), hooks (mandraoky), downward slanting punches (vangofary) and a punch similar to an uppercut (vangomioriky). Defenses include guarding and sidesteps, but neither the attacks nor defenses are standardized, creating higher variability among individual fighters and between regions than in international boxing.


Indian palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum)

The Indian palm squirrel is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae found naturally in India and Sri Lanka. In the late 19th century, the palm squirrel was introduced to Madagascar, Réunion, Mayotte, Comoro Islands, Mauritius, Seychelles and Australia, where it has since become a minor pest. The palm squirrel is about the size of a large chipmunk, with a bushy tail slightly shorter than its body. These squirrels eat mainly nuts and fruits. They are fairly vocal, with a cry that sounds like “chip chip chip” when danger is present. 

photo credits: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Manibabu krishnan, Augustus Binu