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June 24, 2014

Fanenga Omby

If you missed Steve's first post about the funeral he attended last week check it out here.

Now, here is his look in to the actual ceremony.

Fanenga Omby is what the funeral cermony is called.  It means to give a cow.  However, many are not able to give cows due to lack of finances, so they simply give whatever they can.  I saw people give gifts such as money from $1 to $90, cloths or "lambas" which were used to wrap the casket, bowls, blankets, and one family actually gave three cows.  When a big group would come in, they would dance down the middle of the group and hold their gifts high in the air for all to see what they had brought.  The entire gift giving was a huge spectacle.  While I was there two different groups brought in cows.  The first group was five guys and they gave one younger cow.  This was very special.  I don't know that I realized quite how special until after my ears were already ringing.  Basi Mena is another custom among the Mahafaly.  If a really great gift is brought in (like a cow) then the men will fire off a blank in their shotgun.  Unfortunately for me these shotguns were being held by men who were a few feet away from me.  Who knew that a blank shot out of a shotgun was louder than a regular bullet?
The men then led the cow in front of the group, and the men would go over to the band and dance.  After about 5 minutes of dancing, they came to get the cow and delivered it to the family on the mat.  A little while later, another group of about 10 men came in with 3 cows.  I'll let you imagine what kind of spectacle that was and how many shots were fired with that gift.  Let's just say that next time I'm taking ear plugs.
The family hires three guys to come and be the band for the 2 day ceremony.  These guys play a type of southwestern Madagascar music, called "Tsapike".  It's played continually for the entire two days.  While it got old to me, really fast, the Mahafaly love it and really enjoy dancing to it.
Dancing is a big part of their custom during these cermonies.  They danced in front of the family & the widow to cheer her up and make her smile.  Anyone could get up at any time and dance, not just when someone was giving a gift, and everyone does.  The dancers ranged from toddlers all the way to great grandparents.  The Mahafaly have a very distinctive dance - they quickly shake their whole body, especially the hips & shoulders up and down, all the while they are moving side to side...and the faster the better.  Needless to say there were sometimes during the day that this became very comical to me as I watched 50 year olds + participating in this custom.
The giving of gifts continues for the entire first day of the funeral ceremony.  The second day is the Fandevena which is the burial.  Check back tomorrow for a look into what day 2 was like!

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