chapter  6
Ze mañeva aze: looking for patterns in Malagasy cloth
Pages 24

In many classic historical overviews on the Indian Ocean, the island of Madagascar literally does not figure on the map. Thus, the inclusion of Madagascar in a publication dedicated to textiles of the Indian Ocean presents a two-tiered opportunity. On the one hand, it provides an occasion to make the peoples and material culture of Madagascar better known to scholars working in related areas, and invites their expertise and insights,1 while offering new examples of the processes of ‘transregional creation of societies and cultures’, the sub-theme of the workshop for which this paper was originally written. Madagascar, after all, has been a ‘net importer of peoples, goods and ideas’ (Mack 1998:171). On the other hand, it also frees the malgachisant from a constraining association with either South-East Asia or Africa, Madagascar’s usual geographical classification. Considering Madagascar – and its textiles – within the wider context of the Indian Ocean promotes an awareness of all kinds of layers of historical occurrences and connections, a reprieve from the obsession with ascribing source of ‘origin’ or a priori importance to any one particular cultural area.2