Madagascar Ethnology 2

Madagascar Ethnology Part II

The Malagasy raise the zebu, of which they also appreciate the meat, and they especially cultivate rice. Rice cultivation must not have come from Africa, where it is relatively recent, having been introduced there by the Arabs; therefore it comes from the East. On the other hand, the fact that the Sakalavis are more shepherds than anything else and the Merina more farmers, makes it possible to bring the former closer to the shepherds of the nearby African coast, and it is easier to conceive that the zebu came from Africa than from distant Insulindia.

The Malagasy – and even, as mentioned above, the residents of Madagascar at the time of the Aepyornis – have known metallurgy like Africa and Indonesia, while Papua and Polynesia ignore it, but the bellows of Madagascar approaches indisputably its metallurgy to that of Indonesia; it is in fact a double bellows with vertical pistons (see metallurgy). To tell the truth, on the west coast there is also the bellows bellows from East Africa, but in this case it is a recent import, not yet penetrated inland.

In the distribution of the forms of the house, the influence of the environment can be seen first of all. The clay houses correspond to the cleared center of the island (except for the central region of Tananarivo), while those made of plant material (wood and foliage) correspond to the forest ring already mentioned. But the influence of other factors is also evident. The east coast and the north part of the west coast have houses on stilts like Indonesia; however, it is not just about huts erected in the water, but houses built on dry land, at least in a very large majority. This not only proves a cultural influence independent of the environment, but also makes us see how this influence ceases, in the north and south of the coastal region, to make room on the west coast for the house made of the same material but at ground level. These dwellings are quadrangular and if they therefore differ from the circular huts of East Africa, they approximate to a certain extent those of the Congo and Guinea regions.

According to RRRJEWELRY, the Malagasy spear differs from the African spear and especially from that of southern Africa which is closer. It almost always has an iron heel in the shape of a spatula, and not a pointed or cylindrical ring like almost all African spears. The tip of the spear is very simple, differentiating itself in this from the majority of African ones, and it is always a shower, while South Africa is the domain of the tang spearhead. The two lances therefore do not admit any rapprochement.

The shield features a curious blend of three different influences. It consists of a wooden tablet with the handle carved in the wood itself and can therefore be connected with the wooden shield of Indonesia and Papua, on the one hand, and with that of Congo and Guinea, on the other; however, being covered with a skin equipped with all the hair it seems to have also suffered the influence of the Kaffir shield. Thirdly, it is round, and this undoubtedly connects it with the properly Asian shield. This influence could have taken place both for the intermediary of Indonesia, where the round shields are not unknown, and for that of Northeast Africa (Ethiopia) where this is the exclusive form.

In braiding, spiral processing is common in Madagascar as in all of eastern and northern Africa; but there is also the crossed type, which on the African continent is more frequent in the Congo and Guinea region, and also the hexagonal interweaving, of the classic type throughout the Far East, from Japan to Assam and New Guinea. Since the latter is very rare in Africa, where it has so far been reported only on the shores of Lake Victoria and Cameroon, its introduction into the island can be attributed to the Indo-Melanesians, and it is perhaps from Madagascar that it passed on the continent. Furthermore, it is possible to note a sure connection between Madagascar and Indonesia in relation to a complicated kind of spiral weaving which in the Indonesia is produced only on the coasts of the Banda Inland Sea; this process can only have been discovered once and it would be interesting to investigate whether other Malagasy cultural elements are found at this point in Indonesia.

The weaving loom is horizontal like the Indonesian one, but also like that of East Africa. But since the true African loom is vertical, it is probable that the shapes of East Africa also derive from Indonesia, reached along the coast of the Indian Ocean, or through the intermediary of Madagascar (see weaving).

The rocker dinghy is the clearest evidence of the connection with Indo-Melanesia. It is found especially on the west coast (but only because the east coast is not conducive to navigation) and the outrigger boats of the African coast of Zanzibar are also of Indo-Melanesian origin. The Malagasy dinghy generally has only one barbell, but there is also one with two. Indonesia has a two-rocker dinghy and Papua one has one; the reduction to one in Madagascar could be secondary, and if the Indo-Melanesian connection is beyond doubt it is difficult to determine whether it goes back to the time of the ancient Papuan form of this culture.

Madagascar Ethnology 2

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