Visiting Madagascar – People and Culture

Traditions and ceremonies

Each region of Madagascar is rich in ritual ceremonies, traditions, tales, and taboos. Foreigners are exempt from having to observe local taboos although it is sensible and considerate to find out as much as possible about the region you are visiting as to avoid offending local people. In general, traditional culture is based on reverence of the ancestors.

  • “Famadihana”: A ceremony during which the remains of a selected relative are exhumed from the tomb, wrapped in a new shroud before returning to their resting place. It is an opportunity for family gathering and festivities.

  • Burial practices: Tombs are regarded as permanent homes while the houses are only temporary and in many regions, great care is taken of the resting place. It is not unusual to find beautiful painted tombs, erected commemorative stones or carved wooden posts called “Aloalo.”

  • Royal relics bathing by the Sakalava tribes (Fanompoambe and Fitampoha): Royal relics are taken from their sanctuary and bathed in the Tsiribihina River or in sacrificed zebu blood, following strict rules regarding the proceedings, customs, clothes, hairdos, and etiquette. The festivities last a week and include dances, chanting, and traditional wrestling.