THE GATES OF PARADISE
(mental asylum of madagascar)
In October 2015, I go to Tulear in the psychiatric camp "Toby Betela" located in southern Madagascar. The word "Toby" comes from the Malagasy military vocabulary. He pointed to the 19th century, in the highland Merina armies, the fortified camps that favored the conquest of the coastal areas of the island. Today this word designates two types of camps: military camps but also psychiatric asylums. Present in all major cities of the country, these psychiatric camps are located away from city centers and practice a healing ritual (the Fifohazana) to treat the mentally ill one hand, and secondly, to take support a population unclassifiable, lost, people often rejected by their families.
The first time I arrived at the mental asylum Toby "Betela" the door literally "leads to Paradise" opens. It is six o'clock. Accompanied by Boba pastor, I cross this camp which has about four hundred sick to join two buildings where men and women met the most patients. The contrast between the outside where restless children and families in the middle of a large empty lot and inside buildings is striking.
Upon entering, I am struck by the look of these lost women perfectly calm, installed on the ground at regular intervals around a large room. The sun shines through the windows of each of the women a diffuse light and high intensity. They are there, day after day, chains on his hands and feet, with just a bucket to their needs and a mat to lie on. Two worlds meet without taboos: a world of confinement of patients gathered in this room, and that of the freedom of the villagers who reaches me through children screaming playing outside. Among these patients, distress Florina holds my attention. Sent to the center by her family because she is volatilized in nature from a disappointment in love, she is standing today as a frightened doe near the door. It's been two months since she stays there. There is sadness in her eyes, the sweetness in her smile.
When I enter the room intended for men with my photographic apparatus, the latter dedicated to providing a dignified appearance, have the reflex to discreetly cover with cover their feet shackled. I expect to hear management, finding agitated patients, I meet men so alone, lost, yet so proud. Floriant handball is the best club I was told. I approach. His mouth smiled, he stands right before me as an athlete the medal, and the corner of his eyes bed acquiescence to his fate. Did he take drugs? Has it been bewitched by jealous members of the club? It's difficult to get the exact reason for his detention. Later, I will gather some surprising explanations from management on another patient referred Rebona. Incredible, his story is like a fairy tale to lull children. Rebona wife an old woman, I am told, very loving, and very cunning, who asked him to sign his wedding day a pact with the devil. According to the pact, the devil will seize one who will break the couple. The curse falls on the same day he decides to leave his wife. This is the explanation that it merely gives me to justify his presence for two years in the psychiatric side.
During my various visits to Madagascar Toby, I attend rituals Fifohazana (spiritual dream) to better understand their meanings. If Toby are present on the Malagasy territory both in FJKM centers (Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar) and Lutherans, it is only through the Lutheran church I found these rituals. This practice is based on the idea that God's word has the power to heal the sick of any kind, and especially the mentally ill. Belief that drugs administered by doctors remain ineffective because they only calm patients without cure. Consequently, exorcisms, Fifohazana major rituals, are organized several times a week by a pastor and his disciples Mpiandry (literally "shepherds"), kinds of healers of damned souls. They take place primarily in the church, but also in isolated parts. Initiated from four major centers (Soatanana, Manolotrony, Ankaramalaza, Farihimena), these sessions include three phases: prayer, hunting demons, and the imposition of hands.
Hunting demons is a phase rich in emotions that strengthens cohesion within the community. It certainly is the most impressive phase to which I attended. A highlight of the ritual. I was scared the first time I participated. white drapes, white or Mpiandry the shepherds chase the evil spirits in patients by shouting fervently: "Goblin, get out of this man in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Go to hell! This is your home. " For long minutes, the cries reflect the fevered battle these religious conduct against the devil avalanche of insults meant to bring healing to the sick. The Mpiandry are, in their words, the utensil that is used by Jesus Christ to heal. After a return to calm, the Mpiandry complete their exorcisms by the imposition of hands: serious faces like warriors after the fight, they put their hands on the head of the sick and bless.
From south to north, I visit many Toby Lutheran influence. I note that the applied treatments differ from one place to another depending on the financial resources of each mental asylum but also personal initiatives pastors or Mpiandry. A Soatanana example, every villager welcomes one or two sick members of his family in places that seemed to me warm and well kept. He also was difficult to differentiate between patients and family members. In Antsirabe, patients move in with Toby their chains to participate in tasks of general interest and activities of daily living such as cooking, gardening or prayer. I find that each camp tries according to local customs, without genuine national orientation, best meet the needs of a population frustrated with mental illness. I had the chance to meet during my travels a neuropsychiatrist able to accurately diagnose mental illness as Doctor Rakotosalomon the psychiatric ward of the capital Antananarivo. The latter speaks of "delirium of influence" to explain the phenomenon of possession; periods during which the mentally ill, like schizophrenics, feel that something strange dominates. Unfortunately qualified persons to establish such a diagnosis like that of Dr. Rakotosalomon are rare, very rare. The pastors of the Lutheran reflex centers for the slightest psychological disorder to diagnose all mental illnesses under one label: possession. The devoly (the devil) is yet another name, another "word suitcase" borrowed English missionaries (Devil, the Devil) I often hear during my visits to Toby to explain the inexplicable to me refer to all the strange behaviors that arise in the individual. Too many people that can qualify before me possessed.
My goal as he was merely photographing young alcoholics, widows, mentally ill, broken hearts, rejected by their families, drug addicts, clueless teenagers, a segment of the population on the sidelines.