Mondain, Gustave Stéphane
Called “France’s only son” by the Malagasy people, Gustave Mondain (who had almost gone to Zambezi) spent almost sixty years serving God in Madagascar.
Gustave Mondain was born in Paris, France, on May 18, 1872. He was a member of the Protestant church in the parish of Batignoles, in which he served as a Sunday school instructor. He was a brilliant student at [the renowned] Condorcet High School, and his mind revealed that he was someone who was open to all branches of learning. He was admitted to the (national level) competitive school-wide final examinations in a number of categories: English, History, Physics and Chemistry, and Mathematics, and was twice a prize-winner. In July of 1892 he entered the national Teacher’s Training College (an elite grande école) to study “the sciences.” He “was passionate about science” and graduated with a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics/Chemistry. In 1896 he had been named to a post as a High School physics teacher at the Toulon High School when he heard the call given by a certain Coillard, who was seeking missionaries for Zambezi. Desirous as he was of having a meaningful life with a goal, he applied to the Société des Missions Evangéliques de Paris (the Evangelical Missionary Society of Paris, also known as the French Protestant Mission, or FPM). However, an urgent letter from Lauga to the directors of the FPM had requested that they send French scholars to Madagascar to show that “Protestant can mean French.” Mondain was therefore sent to Madagascar in order to “realign Protestant teaching with French methodology,” and the first period of time he spent there went from 1897 to 1903.
He returned to France having understood the role he was going to need to play, so he studied theology in Paris and was ordained to the pastorate on July 3, 1904, in Batignolles, his home church. He returned to his field of work, and over the course of five other stays, he carried out a very full ministry. He was first placed in Antananarivo, then in Ambatomanga (a station that was twenty km farther east). Returning to the capital, he became the director of the Mission’s schools, and then returning to Ambatomanga, he became the director of the Pastoral School of the FPM, where he also taught. He then directed the district of Mahazoarivo in the Imerina, followed by a directorship in Marovoay, which was about 100 km from Majunga, on the west coast. His colleagues elected him president of the FPM, which was based in Antananarivo, and he directed the FPM during World War I. One of his sons, René, was killed in Verdun in 1918.
In 1915 he was called on to defend one of his Malagasy colleagues, Ravelojaona, who had been unjustly accused of belonging to a seditious secret society, the V. V. S.
Mondain carried out all of the various functions and responsibilities of his work until he was sixty-three years old, which was the mandatory retirement age. He had dealt with a variety of Protestant concerns over the years with the successive general governors of the colony. In those very official relationships, his role was far greater than that of simple director of the only French mission, since he was the logical representative of the foreign Protestant missions as well (British, Norwegian, American). It was on account of his uncontested authority that he was called upon (even though he had been retired since 1935) to resume the office of president of the mission in Antananarivo, in order to preserve and defend the entire Protestant work there during the politically delicate years of the Vichy government.
As a matter of fact, Gustave Mondain was also more than a simple representative of the Protestant missions when he entered into talks with the colonial authorities. He had also been elected president of the Isan’Enim-Bolan’Imerina (the twice-yearly meeting of the Imerina) which represented the 900 Protestant communities in the north of the island, so he was also expressing, as their mandated authority, the voice of the Protestant Malagasy churches. An intransigent but skilful negotiator, he found a way to maintain the integrity and the independence of the churches he represented. He was also active within that organization, as he was the founder and the principal “megaphone” of the “Malagasy Blue Cross,” a teetotaler’s league that received the strong support of the Protestant Church management.
The radiance of Mondain’s intellect, which is borne out by the many works that he published and that are still authoritative, was such that, in April of 1902, during its second meeting, the Malagasy Academy elected him to its membership because “he already has incomparable experience with, and of, our people and the things that pertain to us.” He later served as the vice-president of that brilliant learned society for many years, and devoted himself to it over the course of his long retirement in Antsirabe, where his wife died on January 28, 1949. In recognition of his work and of his service, Gustave Mondain was decorated with the Legion of Honor and named an Officer of the French Academy in 1949.
Mondain returned to France and lived out the rest of his days in Pau (Department of the Pyrénées Atlantiques), and died on August 9, 1954.
(All titles translated from French titles except as noted)
1897 - “Advice on teaching French, for the use of Malagasy teachers” Antananarivo, 63 p.
1898 - “Malagasy fundamentals” (translation and adaptation of Richardson’s method, Antananarivo, 100 p.
1904 - “Themes” [Malagasy-French] 5th ed., Antananarivo, 68 p.
“What the Protestant missions did for public education in Madagascar” Paris, 29 p.
“Some of the religious ideas of the Hova from before the introduction of Christianity” Cahors, 175 p.
1905 - “French language and reading classes” Paris, 48p.
1910 - “The history of the Imoro tribes in the 17th Century, according to an historic Arabic-Malagasy manuscript” Paris, 300 p.
1911 - “The Muslims of northwest Madagascar” (in English) Cairo, The Moslem World.
1912 - “The Malagasy people and miraculous occurrences” Paris, Revue de Théologie.
“The Malagasy people and the Early Church” ibid.
1918 - “Gramera malagasy vaovao” [A new Malagasy Grammar], Antananarivo, 36 p.
1920 - “A Century of Protestant missions in Madagascar” Paris, 375 p. [second edition published in 1948].
“Our mobilized natives” Paris, 148 p.
1925 - “The religious role of Malagasy women” Paris, 64 p.
“Raketaka, a depiction of female Malagasy customs […]” Paris, 135 p.
“The conscience of the Malagasy” Paris, 76 p.
1926 - “Anguish and deliverance (a short history of Christianity in Madagascar)” Paris, 295 p.
1928 - Historic Malagasy Documents - “Some Malagasy people visit Louis-Philippe” - “French soldiers visit Ranavalona III” Antananarivo, Annals of the Malagasy Academy VII, 101 p.
1929 - “Marie Rafaravavy (1808-1848). A Malagasy martyr under Ranavalona I” Antananarivo, 164 p.
1930 - “The work of the Protestant missions in Madagascar” Paris, Gazette coloniale.
1931 - “The Malagasy family, its foundation, its tendencies, its future” Paris, Revue d’économie sociale et rurale.
1937 - (in collaboration with G. S. Chapus) “Protestant action (work) in Madagascar” Antananarivo, 63 p.
1947 - “The crisis for Protestant missions in Madagascar in 1896” Paris, Le Monde non-chrétien [The non-Christian world].
1953 - (in collaboration with G. S. Chapus) “Rainilaiarivony, a Malagasy statesman” Paris, 442 p.
Also, thirty-six lectures or papers on history, linguistics, ethnography, and history of religion given at the Malagasy Academy, four of which were undertaken with G. S. Chapus, published in the Bulletin of the Academy.
In addition, other articles in L’Anthropologie (Paris), Bull. Internat.Com. Histoire Sciences, etc. (see up to 1933: Grandidier, A. and G. - Bibliographie de Madagascar, II, 1904-1933) Paris, 1935; and a great number of short articles in Malagasy in local periodicals, especially Ny Mpamafy [The Sower], Antananarivo.
The above article, reprinted here by permission, is from Hommes et Destins: Dictionnaire biographique d’Outre-Mer [People and Destinies: an Overseas Biographical Dictionary], vol. 3, published in 1977 by the Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer (15, rue la Pérouse, 75116 Paris, France). All rights reserved.