Thursday 26 May 2022

Betsimisaraka People of Madagascar

Betsimisaraka People can be found in Madagascar and they are part of the second largest ethnic group of Madagascar, they are related to the Merina People of Madagascar. 

According to the Oral history, they founded a Kingdom known as Betsimisaraka in the early 18th Century by Ratsimilaho, Ratsimilaho was believed to unite various Chiefdoms that stretched to the coast it is said the Kingdom was collapsed after the death of the 3rd Dynasty ruler around the 1790s, Betsimisaraka later became part of the Merina Kingdom under the expansion of the Kingdom to further west. 

They are divided into 3 subgroups such as Northern Betsimisaraka, Southern Betsimisaraka and Betaimena their territory stretched along the coast to the Bemariv river to the north and Manajary river to the South the name "Betsimisaraka", means the numerous or the Inseparable.

It is claimed they traced their Origins as far as the establishment of the Confederacy the Malagasy Princess unified several small coastal states in the 18th Century and the Confederation continued after the death of Rasimilaho in 1751, It is said the Southern Betsimisaraka traced their Origins back to the 14th Century to traders of Malay Indonesian, African and Arab Ancestry known as Atalaotra People  who settled on the coasts, Antalatora means the People of the sea.  Atalaotra lived around the manajary river just the South of the Betsimisaraka territory it is believed their Ancestor was Zafi Raminia a King who ruled Mecca spelled as Mekkah in Present day Saudi Arabia around the early 14th Century they were one of the largest group it is claimed migrated eastward from Mecca crossed Abyssania Present day Ethiopia then settled in manajary region to become rulers of the South, Zafi Raminia informed part of the ruling class of Merina who came and dominated Present day Madagascar in the 19th Century their power and prestige derived from their willingness to use their knowledge of  astrology, medicine, divination to serve courts of Kings throughout Madagascar and they once formed groups such as Ateva, Varimo and Tsikoa until the beginning of the 18th Century the people would constitute the core of Betsimisaraka were the Tsikoa to the South,  Varimo to the central and Anteva to the northeast each of the group entered into Conflicts encouraged by the French between the 17th and 18th Century and around 1710  Ratsimilaho made an effort to unify the coastal people and led them into resistance against Ramanano who wished to control over a greater portion of the lucrative commerce with the Europeans upon the defeat of Ramanano. Betsimisaraka were organized into numerous clans under the Authority of Chiefs known as filohany and each typically ruled over no more than one or two villages, around the 1700s the Tsikoa began uniting around a series of powerful leaders It is believed Ramanano was elected as the Chief of vatomandry in 1710 the leader of the Tsikoa and established a military at Vohinmasina,   the Northern Betsimisaraka Zana Malata named Ratsimilaho emerged to unite the clans under his rule in 1710, his reign lasted 50 years and also established a sense of common Identity and Stability throughout the Kingdom. 

In 1817 Radam l King of the Imerina who ruled from Atananarivo the capital of the central highlands, It is said the subjugation of the Betsimisaraka in the 19th Century left them relatively impoverished under colonization by the French from 1896- 1960 a focused effort was made to Increase access to education and paid employment working on French plantations. In their Culture they grow crops such as Cassava, Coffee, Plantains, tomatoes and other crops, they used to be sailors and pirates sailing with larger ships and canoes with 1, 000 men to the Comoro Island to the northwestern Madagascar.

Betsimisaraka women hairstyles their hair braided for 2 or 3 inches then arranged in a ball the two or three hanging down on each side,  women who are Hova hairstyle is similar to their hairstyle, their hair is braided tied in a number of small knots over the head and they are of Malay and Indonesian Ancestry.  According to Anthropologist Aphrodite the Potrait of the Betsimisaraka women circa 1890,  the Betsimisaraka "the many Inseparables", make up approximately 15% and the 2nd largest ethnic group in Madagascar after the Merina they speak several dialects of the Malagasy languages, which is a branch of the Malyo- Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages spoken in the Southern Borneo and Occupied a large strech of the eastern sea board of Madagascar from Manajary in the South to Antalaha In the north like the Sakalva ethnic group to the west they are composed of numerous ethnic group subgroups united by historical circumstances under the same denominations most of them are also mixed with Bantu and Austronesian roots.

According to Cannon the Bezanozano are one of the earliest Malagasy ethnic group and they inhabited an Inland area between the Betsimisaraka lowlands and Merina highlands their name means " those of many plaits", their traditional hairstyle similar to the Betsimisaraka and Merina.

According to Marie Paez before Europeans, the Arabs were the first who was believed to write arabico- malagasy language almost no Arab speaking people are Interested in Malagasy history very few Malagasy speak Arabic that does not mean the history started with only Europeans but Arabs as well both races,  In Bestsimisaraka Culture some fady or taboo for brother to shake his sister hands or for young man to wear shoes during the father's life time it is forbidden as well against the consumption of pork but they do keep pigs in their Villages. In their traditions they practice famadihana the reburial and Sambatra which is Circumcision, and their symbol is a crocodile but many taboos and folktales revolved around lemurs and crocodile both of which are common throughout their territory.

Traditionally a woman's first child birth a woman about to give birth it is scheduled by midwives in a special house called Komby the leaves she eats from and waste produced by the new born are kept in a special receptacle for 7 days at which point,  It is burned the cooled ashes is rubbed on the forehead and cheeks of the mother and the baby and it must be worn for 7 days, On the 15th day they both bath in a water which is soaked with lemon, leaves this is a form of ritual cleansing to drive away evil forces during the ceremony they gather playing instruments such as drums and other kind of Instruments, wrestling matches,  later the mother must stay in this ritual cleansing known as Komby she is not allowed to cook any meal but they prepare her food and even chicken to eat while the cleansing is over she begin a new life receiving the guidance of the Creator and Ancestors including blessings. In their Culture they celebrate festivals such as Tsaboraha this festival is about 2 purpose either to offer a protective blessing whilst exhuming and moving and as well moving a body or wish for something also this festival held ceremony to collect crops during good harvesting, helping the childless couples as offering they sacrifice Zebu people who cannot afford can offer Sheep to the Ancestors for any misfortune or bad luck.

They celebrate New festival but traditionally celebrate during the late Ralambo's birthday, They celebrate Angaredona music festival and also a performance of their Malagasy Rhythm and Blues and they also perform traditional dances such as Salegy, Larovoka and other traditional dances.

1 comment:

  1. - Thank you very much for this valuable information


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