The Famadihana: A Photographic Journal

Venerating the dead...the bones are exhumed from family tombs, cleaned, and re-wrapped in fresh cloths and hand-woven mats.

Venerating the dead. The bones are exhumed from family tombs, cleaned, and re-wrapped in fresh cloths and hand-woven mats.

The upper room where we took our breakfast

The upper room where we took our breakfast amongst curious stares

Beautifully constructed bowls hold massive portions of sticky rice

Beautifully constructed raffia bowls hold massive portions of sticky rice

This picture needs no caption

No caption necessary

Keeping an eye on the cooking pots

Our friend, Rolland, keeps an eye on the cooking pots

Marina modeling the mataby, the traditional dress of ceromonies

Marina modeling the malabary, the traditional dress of ceromonies

Renee and his mother-in-law

Renee proudly poses with his mother-in-law

The Malagasy in their finest garb

The young Malagasy women in their finest garb

Rice galore! These are just two of many pots cooking rice at all hours of the day

Rice galore! These are just two of many pots cooking rice at all hours of the day for four straight days

Pork fat. It's what's for dinner.

Pork fat. It’s what’s for dinner (And lunch. And breakfast).

The meat is a key player of the famadihana. Renee was very keen to get us to take pictures of the food. Boasting about the amount of meat is one way to show how popular your famadihana is and how well your family is doing, finacially

The meat is the star of the famadihana. Renee was very keen for us to take pictures of the food. Boasting about the amount of meat is one way to show how popular your famadihana is, and how well your family is doing, financially

Notice the comically large spoon held by the man in red

The man in red holds a comically large serving spoon

Renee's second youngest daughter, Patricia. How can you not love this face?!?

Renee’s second youngest daughter, Patricia. How can you not love this face?!?

Part dance floor, part dinner table. This is where the core of the action takes place!

Part dance floor, part dinner table. This is where the core of the action takes place!

Intrigued stares arising from the weilding of a digital camera

Intrigued stares arise from the wielding of a digital camera

Showing pride for their nationality

Showing pride for their country, a Malagasy flag towers over the proceedings

Malagasy boy wearing the hand-made rice bowl as a hat. It is tradition to wear these "hats" once meal time is over.

A young Malagasy boy wearing his hand-made rice bowl as a hat. It is tradition to wear these “hats” once meal time is over

They were so excited to have their picture taken! Probably the first time in their life...

The children were so excited to have their picture taken! Probably the first time in their life…

...but sometimes they were a little camera shy

…but sometimes they were a little camera shy

My favorite picture of the day. Statuesque Lucy, the midwife, overseeing the festivities as one of the matriarchs of Renee’s family

Tiny Malagasy babes

Tiny Malagasy babes

Natacha modeling her rice bowl hat

Natacha modeling her rice bowl hat

And the band played on...and on...and on

And the band played on…and on…and on

This is how meals were distributed. Everyone pitched in to help serve

This is how meals were distributed. Everyone pitched in to help serve

Taking a power nap after three days of no sleep

A power nap was much-needed after three days of no sleep due to feasting and dancing

We enjoyed our lukewarm THB while taking in the sights and sounds

We enjoyed our lukewarm THB while taking in the sights and sounds

Young 20-year old Natalie with her children. Almost every woman of child-bearning age had babies and small children. A "canary in the coal mine" demonstrating the increasing problem of massive population growth in Madagascar.

Twenty-year old Natalie with her children. Almost every woman of child-bearing age had babies and small children. A “canary in the coal mine” demonstrating the increasing problem of massive population growth in Madagascar

Renee delivering the kabary, a special occasion speech

Renee delivering the kabary, a special occasion speech, before moving the bones back to the tomb

A man with his hand-made clarinet. He poured six months of work into this beauty!

A man with his hand-made clarinet. He poured six months of work into this beauty!

Marina thought she would try her hand at the clarinet

Marina thought she would try her hand at the clarinet

The bones were removed from their temporary home near the house and pass gently down the mass of people gathering to show their respect

The bones were removed from their temporary home near the house and gently passed  down the mass of people gathering to show their respect

Everyone lurged forward to help move the bones back to the tomb

Everyone surged forward to help move the bones back to the tomb in the ceremonial progression

The progression took us into the beautiful surrounding countryside...

The progression took us into the beautiful surrounding countryside…

...to the family tomb that was recently built

…to the family tomb that was recently built for this occasion

Rough translation: "This monument was completed on September 16th, 2013"

Rough translation: “This monument was completed on September 16th, 2013”

After the bones were place safely back in the tomb, the family members danced on the tomb while music was joyfully played

Family members danced and celebrated on the tomb after the bones were placed safely back in their resting place. The mood of the afternoon was quite lively!

The famadihana is a unique experience demonstration what it means to be family in Madagascar and definitely an experience that is ingrained in my memories.

The famadihana is a unique experience demonstrating what it means to celebrate family in Madagascar. It is an experience that will be forever ingrained in my memories

One thought on “The Famadihana: A Photographic Journal

  1. Great post and great pics. I was able to attend this ceremony in Madagascar a few years back. I thought it would be morbid, but it was happy and beautiful. I still remember that little girl dancing with her grandmother’s corpse and crying. wow! It took me a few years to figure out how to write the story on my blog in a way that people would understand. Great job on the article!

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