Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tribes: Betsimisaraka

Madagascar is divided into 22 big areas named Faritra where 18 tribes
are located. Its tribes are distinguished by their languages, clothes
and traditional rites. In the eastern part of Madagascar is
Betsimisaraka—the second greatest tribe in Madagascar which is located
from Vohemar to Mananjary. According to the story one of the first
settlements in Madagascar was in the North-East part of the island,
but, they were not Betsimisaraka. Betsimisaraka has its special apart
of the story more specific than the others.

The first settlers in the northern part of Madagascar who explored the
island and established their settlement were called "Anteva" in the
North and "Varimo" in the middle and Tsikoa or Betanimena in the
south. The story of Betsimisaraka started around 1720 when
Ratsimilaho the son of Thomas White, an English pirate, also called
"Malato Tom". Ratsimilaho conquered almost the eastern part of
Antavaratra the north tribe he took power of Fenoarivo (Arivo, which
means, one thousand) with 1,000 soldiers. He changed his name into
Ramaromanompo where he took position of the southern part where he
decided to stay and formed and inseparable community (tsy misoraka,
means never separated) and did blood brother with the chiefs of the
tribes. Then Betsimisaraka tribes occupied all of the eastern parts
of the island. Betsimisaraka means, "Never be separated" but nowadays
they are spreading into all the country where they are generally
called "Betanimena" when they are from the east. But this term is
sometimes used in a pejorative way. So, how do they live?

In terms of way of life, Betsimisaraka tribes are very united and you
can see this according to the story. For example, during the harvest
each Klan is trying to work hard and united for having a good product
and they eat together. One piece of bamboo is shared as a sign of
unification and the "ro" kind of soup is passed around all people who
are present and they all taste it. Betsimisaraka also eats rice but
their economy is based on exportation and importation (like vanilla,
peppers and coffee). Their houses are built with Ravenala, the "tree
of the visitor". Some houses are also built by bamboo. Betsimisaraka
are very close to nature.

The Betsimisaraka woman wears a long dress with a long shirt and they
wear salovana especially during special traditions and men wear the
kitamby—a kind of skirt fixed on their hip. There is also a special
dance that makes this tribe unique which is Basessa with the rhythm of
volo or bamboo in English. Betsimisaraka have specific dances which
are not different from Polynesian dances—girls are moving their hips
through the songs of valia. Until now Basessa makes Betsimisaraka
tribe now.

For Betsimisaraka, ancestors are very important. They are considered
as present in their everyday life. So many uses are seen in
Betsimisaraka tribes which are common to other dialects. But only the
name and the process are different. For example, there is tsaboraha
(exhumation) but like the center part of Madagascar they have another
word for this (famadiana). Also the process is different;
Betsimisaraka is to change the dead person's clothes and to rebuild
the coffin. During that time the women should wear salovana. Also,
there is "joro" another group where people call for the ancestors and
communicate with them. In that time they sacrifice zebu (cows) and
the blood is pooled into one monument where everyone can ask for what
they want. There are many taboos as well like they cannot eat boar in
the north and it is forbidden to speak about crocodiles.

To sum up, the Betsimisaraka is the second greatest tribe in
Madagascar and the diversity of culture is very interesting. This
tribe is now very scattered. We can see many Betsimisaraka people in
the north and south of Madagascar. They are facing a problem with
becomg a melting pot with other tribes because of the speed of
development and globalization.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
came upon your blog while I was looking for pictures of traditional Betsimisaraka dress. Our school on Nosy Be has a march on Monday and I wanted to make a poster. Your blog is informative. Thanks. Lynette de Jager/Nosy Be