Madagascar: For 60 years a Jesuit publishing house has been helping Malagasy culture

Diminished and neglected during the colonial period, revaluated after the independence time, African languages are an inestimable cultural heritage. Linguists have classified more than a thousand of them, most of which are spoken by ethnic groups that are numerically very small, up to a few hundred or even dozens of people. Among the most widespread languages are the Amharic, the Berber, the Oromo, the Swahili, the Hausa and the Yoruba, each spoken by several million people. But also, the Malagasy, the language most widely spoken on the fourth largest island of Madagascar.

The Jesuits have made a great contribution to the rebirth and enhancement of Malagasy. Already in 1657, it was the missionaries of the Society of Jesus who published the “Catechism of Saint Francis Xavier” in French and Malagasy. In 1800 it was always the Jesuit missionaries who learned the language and transcribed it. The aim was to learn more about the traditions of the island for an evangelization able to inculturate itself deeply in the Malagasy. Over the years, however, the opposition of the colonial administration stopped the momentum of the religious, which resumed already in the ‘fifties, when Madagascar was still a transalpine colony.

It was in those years that the Society of Jesus gave life to the Éditions Ambozontany (from the name of the hill overlooking Fianarantsoa), a publishing house in Malagasy that began to publish books for schools, but also the first Malagasy language dictionary, religious volumes (pastoral and catechesis) and technical works or works aimed at safeguarding the cultural traditions of the country. One of its main initiatives is the realization of Lovako/My inheritance, a collection for the teaching of Malagasy in schools of all levels. In its sixty years of existence, the publishing house has published 400 books in Malagasy and French. 85% of these books are in Malagasy, 15% in French,

In recent years, Éditions Ambozontany has therefore made a fundamental contribution to the cultural growth of the Red Island. This has been possible both through the proceeds of the books and through donations from benefactors who periodically make a contribution.

This was first published on the Magis website.