The Water Ballet of Madagascar’s Fisherwomen

Ankatafana is a fishing village in southeastern Madagascar, encircled by the Indian Ocean and the estuary of the Mananjary river. Here, village life revolves around fishing, by young and old.

Early morning the men set out to the turbulent Ocean with basic proas without sail or motor to catch bigger fish, often at the risk of their own lifes. The women, operating in pairs, use traditional nets to fish for bichiques in the beating of the Ocean’s waves or in the more quiet estuary of the river. Bichique is the alevin of the redtailed goby.

This goby has a remarkable life cycle: the fully-grown fish lays his ca. 50.000 eggs upstream between January and June. The larvae are then carried away downstream towards the Ocean. At the October full moon the alevins gather at the mouth of the river to ‘climb’ upstream where the women of Ankatafana try to catch them. Usually they collect the bichique behind the sari around the body.

Bichique is the main component of the “cari bishik”, a curry that is highly appreciated in the restaurants of La Réunion and Madagascar.