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Returning to Other

By Elina Valtonen (Finland)

and Njara Rasolomanana (Madagascar)

This project is a continuation of “The Returning - A celebration of life”
that was presented in April 2019 at Musiikkitalo.

The Returning, Famadihana, is a funeral tradition of the Merina tribe in
Madagascar. During this ceremony, known as the turning of the bones, people bring forth the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts, rewrap the corpses in fresh cloths and rewrite their names on the cloth so they will always be remembered. Honoring the values, love, wisdom and fraternity that the ancestors left for the upcoming generations to apply throughout their journeys on earth, was probably one of the reasons why this tradition has been created.

Madagascar is known as among the poorest countries in the world and by its beautiful nature by people who never travelled there. But for those who got the opportunity to visit the country, their first impression
(after the sun) is how welcoming people are. The sense of care and hospitality in our everyday creates a good and happy life.

“Returning or turning of the bones; is a ceremony in which the whole family is gathered to celebrate the life of their ancestors and people who have just passed away. Throughout this process joy, happiness, grief and sadness are alternating. After this 24 hour-long ritual, you feel like you have re-lived your entire existence.

The practice of this tradition is now threatened by religious pressure, local economy and globalisation.

“Returning to Other” is about viewing, living and understanding the Life of the other person from the other side. “The other” can be the ancestors, your foreign neighbor, person living in another country or in a different situation than the present time.
I and you are “the other” for the other. We are all standing on the same earth but divided by our political, geographical and lifestyle habits. The day something bad happens to you, I feel sad for you, but before that I ignored your existence. “Returning to Other” wants to investigate and redefine if we could do things differently by caring more, understanding more, communicating more and being there for the other.

We are curious about exploring how our existence is completely dependent on others - we only exist in relation to others. This piece is not about us, it is about all those who have lived before us who have contributed for us to be right here in this moment. During the artistic process we are interested in researching our connection to the earth.

As all humans, among other organisms, transform gradually back to earth, rooted movement connects us with our ancestors and offers us a way to communicate with those who are not with us anymore.

Our work group portrays artists of different nationalities, ages and disciplines. The dancers are of different nationalities and backgrounds. We wanted to also include hobby dancers as part of the team. Our vision is to cultivate inclusivity through dance. We want to strengthen the sense of community and togetherness in Finnish contemporary dance.

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