I was told (by more than one person) that when a couple wishes to marry, they are expected to cohabit for a couple of years. In the meantime, they save up for the wedding. During the wedding, the groom must publicly advocate his worthiness to marry the bride. The bride’s family might raise objections and a debate is held. If the groom loses the debate, he cannot marry his betrothed and he remains single – but is still saddled with the wedding expenses. In order to minimize this risk, the groom, or his family, will typically hire a professional advocate, called a “pikabari”. The pikabari’s reputation depends upon his success rate – just like attorneys in the West. Top-notch pikabaris can fetch a hefty price.
Circumcision is practised among the Malagasy. The grandfather (paternal, I think) is expected to swallow the foreskin with banana. I am not sure what they used before bananas were imported to the island. In any event, this is one reason I am happy I am not Malagasy.
In the days of the monarchy, a large sea shell (I forget the species) was used as a sort of trumpet to gather the people in times of peace. In times of war, a Zebu horn was used instead. The Malagasy have many uses for the Zebu. It is a common beast of labor and its meat is a staple. I was even told there is a Malagasy style pizza – which features chunks of Zebu meat. Among the polygamous African tribes of the South, men use Zebu to buy their wives.
Today I bought a couple of traditional Malagasy music CD’s. I’ll find out what they sound like upon my return. I also got some of that famous Malagasy vanilla. I hope it doesn’t go bad quickly when not refrigerated.