Madagascar is definitely on my list of destinations to visit sooner rather than later. I am intrigued both by the culture and natural beauty of this island in the Indian Ocean off of Africa’s southeastern coast.
A few months ago, I came across this lovely animated short entitled “Madagascar: Carnet de Voyage” (“Madagascar: Travel Journal”).
Created by director and animator Bastien DuBois, this innovative 12- minute film details DuBois’ travels to Madagascar and his participation in the Famadihana (turning of the dead) ceremony.
I highly recommend watching it in its entirety on the Fluxus International Film Festival website.
This unique film has been nominated for and won a bevy of international awards (all richly deserved, in my opinion).
The film prompted me to do a bit of research on the Famadihana ceremony, an important ritual in traditional Malagasy culture. During the ceremony, family members remove the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts, rewrap them in new silk cloths, and dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music before laying them to rest once again. It is a way of both honoring the dead and celebrating the living.
When a Famadihana occurs, it is customary to invite the entire extended family and everyone in the village where the crypt is located. Traditional Famadihanas can last up to three days, during which all of the guests must be housed, fed and entertained at the expense of the hosts.
As you can imagine, cost plays a large role in determining the frequency of Famadihanas for different families (one Famadihana every 5-10 years is the norm). However, most Famadihana are prompted by what are believed to be supernatural occurrences (a vision or dream about a deceased family member, for example).
I hope to make it to Madagascar in the near future to experience a Famadihana firsthand. Until then, Bastien DuBois’ film will serve as an artistic substitute.
Flickr: luc legay