People of Madagascar

Different, unique, impressive

A mixed people with diverse origins, this is in a way the definition of the population of the big island. The Malagasy are the descendants of immigrants coming from Indonesia, South Asia and Africa …. Let’s go back in time and dive into history to know a little more about the origin of the Malagasy people.

At the beginning…..

The first people of Madagascar came from Asia between the 5th and 7th centuries when the great sailors crossed all the oceans and seas to conquer the world. According to hypotheses, the first Malagasy people lived in the eastern part of the island, towards Maroantsetra. Then, a part of these navigators went down towards the south and some of these sailors went up towards the Highlands.
Among the first inhabitants of the island, also, one noted the presence of sailors coming from Borneo: from Indonesia and from Malaysia. And when the Bantu arrived in South Africa, some of them went to Madagascar as well.

Unity in diversity: one people, many cultures

Each ethnic group has its own culture, its own beliefs, its way of living in Madagascar. Divided into 18 ethnic groups, the Malagasy people live a different daily life. If the Vezo are true fishermen, the Mikea still live from hunting and gathering while the people of the Highlands follow the evolution of the international world.
In Madagascar, each ethnic group lives in its own region using their own dialect, living their own customs. Thus, the inhabitants of the Eastern part called the Betsimisaraka live from the culture of coffee, clove and sugar cane. They are distinguished by their houses built on stilts with vegetal roofs.

The western part of the big island is inhabited by the Sakalava. They are divided into two groups: the Menabe and the Boina dynasties. It is often said that they represent the population of the neighboring island of Mayotte.
The southern part is occupied by the Antandroy who live from the manufacture of coal and silver jewelry. They are also true cattle breeders. There are also the Mahafaly and Vezo peoples who live in this part of the island.
The Merina ethnic group is the population that lives in the highlands. They represent 25% of the Malagasy population. The descendants of the sailors from Malaysia and Indonesia are represented by the Merina people. They almost all live in the capital doing different types of activities.
The Betsileo are known for practicing rice cultivation in terraces. They represent 12% of the population of Madagascar. They are true wood craftsmen. They live in the central-eastern region, in Fianarantsoa.

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