The Malagasy culture is highly influenced by a fusion of Indonesian, Arabic, Islamic and African elements making it a very diverse culture. The rural population of Madagascar makes up a large part of the people of Madagascar which is characterized by a very unique and traditional lifestyle.
Where and how are they living?
Malagasy houses also called “trano gasy”, can be found in various forms on the island. Especially since the French colonization of Madagascar these earthen houses underwent many evolutions. The basic earthen houses in the countryside have one or more stories and have a thatched roof with eaves hanging over on the sides which help direct rain away from the foundation and thereby prevent its erosion. Family members often sleep on the upper floors of their trano gasy and leave the ground floor for their livestock.
The houses in the plateau are usually made of brick and wood, whereas the ones in the west are constructed of thatch and leaves and in the east, built on stilts. But in general rural Malagasy houses have many similarities in their construction. They are all rectangular, located north-south with a door facing the west.
How are they dressing?
Malagasy from rural areas are usually wearing traditional clothing – large shirts and shorts or long pants for men and dresses and gathered skirts for women living in the plateaus. Women living in coastal regions dress slightly different with wrapped skirts, tops and lambas. “Lambas” are rectangular pieces of fabric that are usually worn by women around their waist and chest as well as around the shoulders and head. They are especially worn during traditional ceremonies but can also serve many more purposes since lambas can basically be used for almost everything: carrying around babies, picking up hot things, blankets, pillows, picnic blankets and also serving as protection from the sun, wind and dust. Last but not least this item is a symbol of identity, respect, social position and ethnicity.
What are they doing in their free time?
Traditional ceremonies, as well as musicians and orators, are an important part of the rural Malagasy entertainment sector. Throughout the year there are various festivals, such as the ‘Festival of the Trees’ and the ‘Festival of Rice’. The schools, churches, towns or even private groups in the community also organize dances and concerts on a regular basis. Especially the so-called “Hira Gasy” performances are a well-known element of the Malagasy culture. Originated back in 1789, Hira Gasy served the purpose of thanking the king for farming tools and his overall generosity. Nowadays these performances are always addressing different themes, such as farming, wedding or social problems.
As we all know, the best way to learn about a foreign culture is always to go there and actually experience it yourself. Therefore, why don’t you have a look at our official Madagascar site and see if you would be interested in one of our scheduled tours? If you have any questions or would like us to tailor-make a tour for you, do not hesitate to contact us. There is so much out there waiting for you to discover.