Africa Tour Operators

The Malagasy Culture

Madagascar is known for a lot of things and one of them is the unique culture found in the country. Madagascar as a country is known for her mixed culture due to the numerous different customs that are practiced by the people found in Madagascar. The different ethnic groups found in the country practice different customs which makes the culture exciting to experience.

We try to do all that is necessary to make sure that you experience some of the things that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world and this is why we bring you the uniqueness of Madagascar as a country through the eyes of culture.

culture in madagascar

If you want to understand the Malagasy people more and their uniqueness from the rest of the world, a safari to the country will give you more insight to what makes them unique and some of the cultural practices that you will want to experience first-hand include the following:

They cut off the baby’s hair after three months

The act of cutting off the baby’s hair is known as ala-volo and it is carried out by a person known as the Tso-bolo.  A Tso-bolo is the person who has the best hair in the whole family and he or she is called upon when the baby is three months old to cut off the hair. This ceremony is carried out so that the baby is initiated into the society fully.

During the ceremony, the baby’s hair is cut off and mixed with honey in a bowl. Later on any available tuber food is also mixed with the hair and honey and the family members are obliged to eat this mixture. You do not have to participate as the ceremony is carried by only family members but you can sit back and watch and also listen to the different stories that are told by the elders during the ceremony. There will also be a tour guide who will translate for you all that you do not understand.

The Engagement ceremony                                                

Like in any other culture before the couple weds, the engagement ceremony has to be carried out at the bride’s place. The traditional engagement ceremony is known as Vodiondry and during this ceremony, the groom is supposed to publicly introduce himself to the family members of the bride and he has to ask the family of the girl for her hand in marriage officially from her family. And during this ceremony, the groom is supposed to bring presents to the family of the bride especially the siblings and her parents. When the girl’s parents consent to the engagement then the marriage ceremony can take place.

The umbilical cord of a new born baby                                     

Traditionally when a baby is born in Madagascar, the Umbilical cord and the attached placenta were given to the father of the baby to be buried at the entrance of the compound but of late due to urbanization the umbilical cord is buried anywhere around the compound where it will not be polluted.

The reason as to why the umbilical cord is buried is so that the baby grows up not be forgetful as for those whose cords are not buried or lost locally known as the tadi-poatra grow up to be extremely forgetful. And when the father of the baby is burying the umbilical cord, he should not turn his head in any direction until the act is done.

The Famadihana ceremony                                  

The Famadihana ceremony refers to the ceremony where bodies of the loved ones are exhumed and re wrapped before being buried again. The ceremony is one of the biggest ceremonies that is attended by many family members and it comes second after wedding ceremonies. It is carried out every after seven or none years and every family member is supposed to attend it unless otherwise.

It is done as a celebration of parenthood and life and in this ceremony, the bodies of the loved ones are exhumed, a lot of food is prepared and eaten while the exhumed dead are still around. Photos are taken and once they are wrapped in the new fabrics, the bodies are carried around by family members as they dance around before they are reburied.

Face north when sleeping

In Madagascar when it comes to sleeping notions, the head of the bed must face north all the time. The north according to the Madagascar culture is the place where power meets holiness and for all those that would want to gain power the bed should face north. And that is why the parents’ bed is always facing the North so that they gain happiness.

The respect of elders in terms of meals

When it comes to meals, the Madagascan people give a lot of respect and this is mostly practiced in the rural areas although it is also not lost in the other parts of the country. When food is served and there is a person who is older than the rest be it the parents, grandparents or a big sister and brother, no one is supposed to lift their spoons to start eating unless the elders do so. When the elders lift their spoon to start eating, that is when the rest of the people are slowed to lift their spoons and also start eating.

The beliefs about the different compass points

The Madagascan people have a beliefs that every direction one faces has meaning and it can either be good or bad. These have greatly helped them in keeping their life in order according to their different beliefs and the different compass directions mean the following:

  • Facing the North means power and holiness and that is why the head of the bed always faces the north.
  • The western side is where the doors face but these doors are mostly used when throwing out all the un-wanted things that are not used anymore.
  • The southern place is known to be a place where production of anything takes place.

If you intend on going for a safari to the Madagascar, you will need to understand all this so that you do not commit an omen while in the country.

The houses should face western part

All the houses in Madagascar face the western side due to some cultural sentiments attached to it. When one decides to build a house in Madagascar, the house is supposed to face the western side because the belief is that the best time to see and feel the sunshine is in the afternoon and that is why they should all be facing the west as the whole Eastern side is always fenced off with no windows or doors. The windows are always placed in the North due to the blessings associated with it and all the doors are always facing the North.

The blessings received from the elders

The act of receiving blessings from the elders is known as Ny tso-drano zava-Mahery and this is loosely translated as blessings are powerful. There are so many things that warranty a blessing from the elders before they are done and some of these activities include:

  • When one is going to work in the morning.
  • When one is going for any kind of examination.
  • When one is travelling to long distances

All these and many more are always successful for as long as the blessings are received from the elders especially the grandparents.

The rule of no funerals on Thursdays

The Malagasy calendar starts on a Thursday and that is why there is a rule of no burials on Thursday. When it comes to days of the week all the Malagasy people believe that there is a purpose and something that needs to be done on every day and Thursday is one of them. When one has a funeral on Thursday which is considered to be the first day of the week, it is believed that this will be the beginning of continuous deaths in the family. And that is why no funeral has never and will ever be arranged on a Thursday.

The Taboos in Madagascar

Most of the taboos that are found in Madagascar are built on stories that no one knows whether they are factual or not. Some of the taboos are that no one is allowed to eat the radiated tortoise especially by the Mahafaly tribe. This is because one day someone from the Mahafaly tribe cooked a tortoise but when one of them looked inside the pot, the heart of the tortoise was still beating and this scared them so much and that is why they were all forbidden from eating the tortoise.

There are a lot of places that are considered fady in Madagascar like the Ankarana National Park and if one commits a fady the only way to stop its consequences is by offering a sacrifice. Every tribe has its own Fadys and these rare not be disrespected or else face the consequences.


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