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Published: March 23rd 2018
The Day in the Life of Malagasians
Rural Malagasians are up before sunrise, no electricity and no running water but the daily chores begin. The women prepared rice and fruit for breakfast for her big family. Strong Malagasian coffee was always prepared using charcoal for the fires.
The school children put their school uniforms on (dark blue for private schools light blue for public schools) and helped with the younger ones. They had to start walking early as there was no public transport and school started at 8.00am.
The men were out amongst the rice, corn and other vegies, later to be joined by the ladies.
The 13+ boys move the Zebu for fresh grass. They all took their long narrow sticks to control the cattle.
Several 16-18 year old girls were tending to their babies or had them already cradled on their back in a wrap. Some grandmothers were looking after them too. They needed to grind the rice to make rice cakes and spread the rice on the hot road for additional
drying. The women worked together later in the day preparing simple meals for the family.
It was washing day so the ladies took their bowl of washing down to the river beating the dirt out of the worn clothes before spreading them on the rocks and bushes to dry.
Market day was on in the nearby village so several ladies from the community started their 15 km walk with baskets on their head, laden with produce they had grown. They were hoping for a good price and that all would be sold.
Malagasians are friendly, happy, hardworking people of Madagascar. We have enjoyed seeing their homes, learning about how they live their lives and their challenges. We have also loved interacting with the children who are not too shy to come up to us and chat in Malagasy or French.
Rural life is of course very different to city life. Villages are the central meeting place for all the surrounding areas. When there is market day in the village 100s of people walk to the village,
some many kilometres, often loaded up with their farming produce to sell or on their return, loaded up with their purchases. Mostly they carry things on their head or in the wooden trollies.
Taxi buses are an important part of life as it is their only means of vehicle transport. Very few rural people own cars or motorbikes. The taxi buses are always loaded to the hilt both inside and on the top of the van. The only other vehicles we saw were trucks and vehicles for tourists. However, in the cities we saw more cars, tuk-tuks and cycle-peddles, some pulled by running men, others attached to bikes and carry 2-3 people. Over 85% of vehicles on the island are second hand from Europe.
Malagasy ancestry reflects a blend of Austronesian (Southeast Asian) and Bantu (East African) roots. The Malagasy ethnic group forms over 90 percent of Madagascar's population and is typically divided into eighteen ethnic subgroups.
Southeast Asian features – specifically from the southern part of Borneo – are most predominant among the Merina of the central highlands, who form the largest
Malagasy ethnic subgroup at approximately 26 percent of the population, while certain communities among the coastal peoples (collectively called côtiers
) have relatively stronger East African features. The largest coastal ethnic subgroups are the Betsimisaraka (14.9 percent) and the Tsimihety and Salalava (6 percent each).
Each of the many ethnic subgroups in Madagascar adhere to their own set of beliefs, practices and ways of life that have historically contributed to their unique identities. However, there are a number of core cultural features that are common throughout the island, creating a strongly unified Malagasy cultural identity.
In addition to a common language and shared traditional religious beliefs around a creator god and veneration of the ancestors, the traditional Malagasy worldview is shaped by values that emphasize fihavanana
(karma), and hasina, a sacred life force that traditional communities believe imbues and thereby legitimates authority figures within the community or family.
Other cultural elements commonly found throughout the island include the practice of male circumcision; strong kinship ties; a widespread belief in the power of magic, diviners, astrology and witch doctors; and a traditional division of social classes into
nobles, commoners, and slaves.
Traditional houses in Madagascar are similar to those of southern Borneo in terms of symbolism and construction, featuring a rectangular layout with a peaked roof and central support pillar more often than not, made of mud bricks and either thatched rooves or galvanized iron.
The Southeast Asian cultural influence is also evident in Malagasy cuisine, in which rice is consumed at every meal, typically accompanied by one of a variety of flavourful vegetable or meat dishes. African influence is reflected in the sacred importance of zebu cattle and their embodiment of their owner's wealth, traditions originating on the African mainland.
There are also Indian, Chinese and European culinary traditions as well as the refined festival dishes prepared for the island's 19th-century monarchs.
We saw very little evidence of electricity wires in rural Madagascar and considerable evidence of yellow plastic containers being for their water supply. Bags of charcoal are used for cooking and are seen on roads for sale everywhere. A plumbing and sewage system was not available except in tourist areas. The ladies do the washing in the rivers as any piped water
is very expensive.
Men carried spears, axes and long-handled digging implements in some areas and long, thin wooden sticks (which were mainly used to control their zebu) in other areas.
It is compulsory for children 6-13 years to go to school but the average size class is in the 50s with one teacher. The average sized family is 4-5 children per family (more in the rural areas) so there are many hands to work together in the fields.
As ‘a picture tells a 1000 words’ I hope you enjoy the photos and see more of the life of Malagasians. Some of the common Malagasy words:
Salama – Hello, Misalta – Thank you, Veluma – goodbye, Mora mora – slowly slowly, Vazha – white skin
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