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Published August 14, 2022 Updated August 15, 2022

Tanisa cartes à jouer

“Tanisa cartes à jouer” published by Colormad, Madagascar.

Madagascar Colormad Societé Malagasy asa Printy Miloko Ethnic & Indigenous Add to Collection
“Tanisa cartes à jouer” published by Colormad, Madagascar

Tanisa is more commonly known as a Muslim woman’s name meaning “Night, Ambition, Born On Monday”, but in the case of this pack of cards it probably refers to the Malagasy word for “a game of jacks involving counting” – though it is difficult to see how this relates to the actual cards. “Tanisa” may, of course, have another meaning. For example, the pack may have been commissioned by Tanisa, a Vietnamese food production company which distributes products internationally, including to Madagascar. The pack (undated) was published by Colormad and printed by the Societé Malagasy asa Printy Miloko (Madagascar Society for Colour printing), in the capital city of Antananarivo.

The pack consists of 56 cards, including 2 Jokers, a title card and a bridge scoring card. The latter cards are in French as too are the indices on the court cards. Each court is named, though they do not seem to reflect either the early or later monarchs of the country, nor regions of the country:

  • JS Imatsilo • JH Tsilavo • JC Imalina • JD Lemailaka
  • QS Mirana • QH Anjarasoa • QC Hasina • QD Tsarahoby
  • KS Tsiroateny • KH Tsaralaza • KC Tsarafidy • KD Tsaralanja
“Tanisa cartes à jouer” published by Colormad, Madagascar “Tanisa cartes à jouer” published by Colormad, Madagascar “Tanisa cartes à jouer” published by Colormad, Madagascar

Above: “Tanisa cartes à jouer” published by Colormad, Madagascar. 52 cards + 2 Jokers, a title card and a bridge scoring card. Undated.


NOTE: until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented assortment of shifting socio-political alliances. Beginning in the early 19th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of Merina nobles. The monarchy ended in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the island gained independence in 1960. Since 1992, the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo.

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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