The 18 ethnic groups of Madagascar

The 18 ethnic groups of Madagascar with their characteristics and their locations.

Merina

The Merina are of Asian origin more precisely Indonesian, they reside in the region of Antananarivo in the center of Madagascar and also called those of the heights.

The Betsileo or the invincible, they take refuge in the region of Fianarantsoa in the midle-east and their talents are wood carving and rice growing.

The Betsimisaraka is the most important ethnic group on the east coast of Madagascar, people are coffee growers, cloves and sugar cane. They are also called those who never separate.

The Sakalava or those of long valleys, the Sakalava ethnic group has an extensive territory along the west coast of Madagascar, from north to south to Toliara.

The Antaisaka are Sakalava migratory from which those who come from the Sakalava

The Antandroy or those of the thorns, they occupy Madagascar south extreme. They hunt and they are eaters of cactus fruits and cassava.

The Mahafaly are sculptors and get on well with their neighbor Antandroy. They are also called those who make taboos.

The Vezo or the nomads of the sea are fishermen came from East Africa, they reside in the south-west of Madagascar.

Bara is an ethnic group from Bantu. In general, people are zebu’s breeders.

The Antakarana or those of the rocks or those of the cliff. They take refuge in the north of the big island of Madagascar. They are both fishermen and breeders.

The Antemoro are excellent farmers, nicknamed those of the coast.

Antaifasy settles on the east coast, they are called those who live in the sands.

The Masikoro are farmers settled in the southern part of the Big Island.

The Antambahoaka is an ethnic Southeast, they are of Arab origin.

The Tsimihety live in the northwestern part, they are both breeders and rice farmers. They are called those who don’t cut hair.

The Tanala are those of forests, they take refuge in the cliffs between the east coast and the highland towards Fianarantsoa. They inherited the knowledge of medicinal plants.

The Bezanozano is an ethnic group of the east coast. People are foresters and called those of beautiful braids.

The Sihanaka live in the northeastern part of Madagascar, they are farmers and named those of the Marais.

Population of Madagascar

More than 25 million inhabitants is the number of the population of Madagascar. The Big Island is made up of several ethnic groups and communities.

Afro-Asians represent 98% of the population of Madagascar including 18 ethnic groups. The most numerous are the Merina with a percentage of 25% and then the Betsileo who occupy the 12%.

Other communities like the Comorians occupy the 0.3%, the European community, French in general represent the 0.4%, for the Indian community is 0.2% who are from Pakistan and arrived during the twentieth century and the Cantonese Chinese remain the least numerous at 0.1%.

Famadihana, exhumation or turn of the dead

This cultural trip in Madagascar consist to turn of the dead or « Famadihana ». This is a highland culture in generally but more practical among the Merina. For the Malagasy people, there is a rather special relationship between the living people and the dead or ancestors. The principle is that ancestors are the power to communicate and help the living pepole by connecting them with God or “Zanahary”. The « Famadihana » takes place from 5 to 10 years according to family system, the ceremony consists of repatriating a deceased person to the family tomb or exhuming the remains of one or more dead by offering them new ones shrouds during the dry season July to September. This is a great reconciling opportunity and bringing together all the members of the big family by getting to know each other.

You could add Famadihana in your cultural tour in Madagascar

Famadihana periods: August and September

Combined tours