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June 23, 2014

The Vazaha & the Fanenga

I always love when Steve shares what's going on in Mahafaly Land - grateful for the chance today to get to hear him tell the story of his first full funeral here in Madagascar.

This past week, I had the opportunity to spend two days with the believers in Kilimary as the village held a funeral for an 80 year old man who passed away back in January.  I have been able to attend parts of a funeral service before but never the entire event.  I have to admit I was a little nervous about what may happen due to some stories that I had heard.  I knew two were never alike, because they differ according to the village they are held in.

On Thursday they held the Fanenga ceremony - this is a time when all the guests from other villages arrive and bring a gift to the family of the deceased person.  I arrived just after noon and was quite overwhelmed by the number of people that were present.  I waited by my truck until I saw a familiar face...soon I saw the village leader heading my way.  After our greetings, he asked me if I had brought a gift, which is a custom here.  I told him that I had brought some money.  He then asked me how much, which I thought was a bit odd.  Did it really matter how much?  Wouldn't they be grateful for any amount?  But I realized he was serious, so I told him.  He then asked me to follow him.  We walked past a massive crowd of Malagasy people, there were at least 800 people.  The looks on their faces reminded me of how uncommon it must be for a vazaha - foreigner - to be at a fanenga.
The village leader took me straight to the brother of the man who had died.  The brother was sitting under a tree with about 30 other older men.  There was a group of younger men in front of the brother recieving each gift and announcing what was given and how much.  Next to them, were three more youth who were writing all of the gifts down in a notebook.  The brother recognized me and called me to the mat to give my gift.  I then realized that the massive crowd I had passed were all waiting their turn to give their gifts to the brother.  After the leader and brother exchanged words, the leader turns and announces loudly that I had come to be with them for the funeral and how much money I had given.  I guess giving privately doesn't really exisit here.
I was then invited to join the older men on the mat as they recieved gifts.  It was quite enertaining to watch the people who were giving.  Most didn't realize I was there until they had come up to the mat to give their gift...it took them quite off guard to realize a vazaha was sitting on the mat!  By the end of the day, I had been the topic of many conversations as well as had had quite a few fingers pointed my way with loud whispers about the vazaha who had come to the fanenga.
Be sure and check back tomorrow for a glimpse into the Fanenga ceremony.

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