Discover The Famadihana or turnaround of the dead Madagascar

All over Madagascar, tributes to the dead are performed with fervour. In the heart of the tablelands, the Famadihana ceremony whose origins date back centuries is still practiced today. Each year, from early June to the end of September, tombs are opened and the living allow the dead to dance during major celebrations. Improperly called the "turnaround of the dead", the famadihana of an ancestor is organised at least once every five years. The decision to hold the ceremony is often linked to the supernatural; for example it could be a dream in which a departed relative told one of their descendants he is feeling cold. A famadihana is expensive (for three days, a feast is offered to inhabitants of the village, there are hundreds of guests and they hire mpihira gasy and vako-drazana musical groups). All family members who have the means to help give a contribution. After performing a fomba (ceremony to seek the opinion of the ancestors after sharing rum amongst the living and the dead), astrologers related to the family set the date and time of the start and end of the famadihana celebration. On the agreed day, the tombs are opened and the ancestors wrapped in new mats. They are then taken out of the tomb. Immediately parents and friends take hold of the corpse and whisk it away, dancing to a very fast tune. The dancing then ceases, the body is placed on the ground and surrounded by close family members. Relatives offer a new shroud to each ancestor. A bottle of rum, a photograph and banknotes are also put into the shroud; these are gifts from the living to their dead. Tears and laughter, joy and sadness blend in this celebration of the beloved dead. A moment of meditation then takes place where hands are laid and a slight pressure is applied to the bodies wrapped in new "lambamenas". The ancestors are touched to ?give them a hug' or seek their help or advice in a secret prayer. Suddenly, each group stands up straight, the bodies are raised up by dozens of people, thrown into the air, shaken, and carried away to the frenetic tune of a farandola. The dancers make several rounds of the tomb and finally, the ancestors return to their eternal resting places for another five years of loneliness. The day is marked by hira gasy shows. Once more, it ends with a feast and a celebration in which the villagers dance throughout the night to the music of vako-drazana orchestras.

  • The Famadihana or turnaround of the dead , Famadihana, or 'the turning of the bones' , Madagascar
    Famadihana, or 'the turning of the bones'

    Famadihana is a very unusual tradition in honour of the dead. Unlike in the west, death does not necessarily give rise to feelings of sadness.

    MATTES Rene
  • The Famadihana or turnaround of the dead , Madagascar
    The Famadihana tradition

    Famadihana is a tradition in which the bones of the dead are exhumed after several years for a ceremony, after which they are buried once again.
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