In 2017, we had the chance to encounter our angel godfather Nirintsoa : singer, 2016 finalist of ” Star Search” from the island of Madagascar. We just fell in love with the island : its history and traditions. Its real name is Gasikara.
Here is a sneak pit of its various ethnies and their traditions.
Madagascar Does Not Come From Where You Think
In multiple ways. First, it is a break off from the Indian sub-continent, not African, even though it is very very close to Africa. Second, the first settlers on Madagascar between 350 and 550 CE were of Malayo-Indonesian descent. Specifically, from Indonesia, Sumatra, and Java. Yes, that is on the other side of the Indian Ocean, rather than across the short Mozambique Channel to Africa. These were joined around the 800s CE by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel and intermarrying with the Malagasy.
A big clue about Madagascar’s unusual migration history is that most common language of Madagascar, also called Malagasy, can be identified as part of the Austronesian language family.
The Malagasy people
The Malagasy are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the island country of Madagascar. Malagasy is an East Barito language of the Austronesian language family. They are divided into two subgroups: the “Highlander” and the “coastal dwellers”. Within these two broad ethnic and political groupings, the Malagasy were historically subdivided into specifically named ethnic groups, who were primarily distinguished from one another on the basis of cultural practices.
The Ma’anyan Dayak
Ma’anyan, Dayak Maanyan or Eastern Barito Dayak people are a sub-ethnic group of the Dayak people indigenous to Borneo. Ma’anyan is an Austronesian language belonging to the East Barito languages. Ma’anyan people were brought as labourer and slaves by Malay and Javanese in their trading fleets, which reached Madagascar. The Malagasy language originated from the Southeast Barito language, and the Ma’anyan language is its closest relative.
The Vezo people
The Vezo is the term the semi-nomadic coastal people of southern Madagascar use to refer to people that have become accustomed to live from sea fishing. Malagasy is an East Barito language of the Austronesian language family. Vezo cemeteries lie in the forest, far away from the villages and are so well hidden by the vegetation that they are considered “invisible to the eye”. The living only approach a cemetery when they bear a corpse or when they have to “work” for the dead, such as digging graves and building tombs.
The Sakalava people
The Sakalava are an ethnic group of Madagascar. Malagasy is an East Barito language of the Austronesian language family. The traditional religion of the Sakalava people, called Fomba Gasy, was centered around royal ancestor worship, aided by the noble dady lineage who preserved the remains of the deceased rulers. The dady priests would conduct a ceremony called Tromba, whereby they divined the spirits of the dead ancestors and communicated their words back to the Sakalava people.
The Betsileo people
The Betsileo are a highland ethnic group of Madagascar. Malagasy is an East Barito language of the Austronesian language family. The Betsileo social structure is determined by a very complex system of kinship. There is also considerable emphasis on the role of elders as community leaders. Community elders often hold more authority than those in formal government positions.
The Betsimisaraka are the second largest ethnic group in Madagascar after the Merina. Malagasy is an East Barito language of the Austronesian language family. There are clear gender divisions among the Betsimisaraka. When traveling by foot in a mixed gender group, it is forbidden for women to walk before men. Women are traditionally the ones to act as porters, carrying light items on the head and heavy items on the back; if a woman is present, it is considered ridiculous for a man to carry something.
The Merina people
The Merina people are the “highlander” Malagasy ethnic group of Madagascar.
Malagasy is an East Barito language of the Austronesian language family.
In the first seven years of their lives, boys are typically circumcised in a ritual wherein relatives request the blessings and protection of the ancestors. The Merina people also ritually kill their cattle with unusual violence, cook and consume beef prepared thereafter ceremoniously.
The Malagasy people in Madagascar use the pulpy fruit of baobab trees to make a drink. You can taste and buy this drink at Les Boissons Uniques d’Angénic