Madame Kokoly is unique even among the Vezo. She spends much of her time in solitude, working the sea to provide for her family. Despite being one of a kind, her story exemplifies the wider struggle of the Vezo people.
It gives a snapshot into the life of Madame Kokoly, a Vezo fisherwoman from southwest Madagascar, as she carries out her daily tasks in and around the coastal waters near her home village of Lamboara.
Through Madame Kokoly’s words, and those of other women in her community, we gain an insight into the heavy toll that overfishing and habitat destruction have taken on the Vezo people and experience the reality of their daily struggle for survival.
Kokoly shines a spotlight on the issues affecting small-scale fisheries across the tropics and demonstrates the urgent need for Blue Ventures’ work. Most importantly, we want this film to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals living on the front line of climate and ecological breakdown.
Behind the scenes
Paul Antion (centre), who directed the film has spent the last five years living and working in southwest Madagascar. He poses with Babete (left), Madame Kokoly’s twin sister, and Madame Kokoly (right). The rapport that the crew built with Kokoly’s family meant that much of the down time was spent in fits of laughter.
Principal photography on Kokoly took over 4 months. Paul and the crew spent much of the time just listening to Madame Kokoly’s stories. Paul recalls being told by one creative advisor that filming should take no more than 3 days. “We simply fell in love with Kokoly” he says, explaining why production went on for months longer.
Despite her independent spirit, Kokoly’s family and friends are of utmost importance to her. The other women featured in the film are her family and friends.
Madame Kokoly, like most small-scale fishers in Madagascar, doesn’t earn a lot of money (77% of Malagasy people live on less than $2 a day) and lives a modest life in a tiny home. Explore the home that Madame Kokoly shared with her nephew and his wife on Google Earth.
At 52 years of age, Madame Kokoly has seen the changes in her marine environment with her own eyes. She recalls a time where octopus were “everywhere”. Now, increased demand and habitat destruction means it’s harder than ever to find enough to feed her family and make a living.
Despite the scarcity, Madame Kokoly remains a skilled octopus fisher (gleaner). Other women in Lamboara marvel at her strength, her ability to work the sea and her lack of fear.
Although the marine environment has certainly changed significantly, communities across Southwest Madagascar are not powerless. Madagascar has over 60 Locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs); areas of the sea that are being managed by the community.