Lemurs and circumcision

So…I am still fine. I have been travelling for almost two weeks and actually had a blast. Back in Toliara we had an intense period of writing and doing review, that is basically all I have done the last three days. My mind is a bit empty, right now, but I really want to share my experiences. I have decided to skip the part of the lemurs, oh, well, I will give you a short summary:

I have held, petted and named a mouse lemur. I named it Sven, because they were looking for male names and wanted one with a Nordic influence and that was the first name I came up with. A mouse lemur is really really tiny and has enormous eyes (and balls, in case anyone wants to know)…I know you have all seen the film Madagascar, it is the type that starts to cry all the times, basically. I think. We also went for long walks in the rain forest and made a couple of interviews. Besides that, we shared camp site with a bunch of American undergraduates and had loud company for a couple of days.

So, the fun part though was the circumcision ceremonies in Manajary. It is called Sambatra and only takes place every seventh year. People travel from all over Mad to be here, either to participate or to celebrate. You can buy T-shirts, lambas and hats with this years motives on. It has really become more and more commercial, but the ceremonies in itself are really still authentic; in the parade only people dressed rightly and belonging to a tranobe were allowed, leaving many of the white people far away from what was going on (more about that below). It would be too hard to go into every single detail, but basically celebrations are a month, culminating in 24h partying the last week. The boys are circumcised during this week; they are all between 0 and 10 years old. They are dressed in red with a red hat, the kings colour. They were a cord around their waist for protection against evil spirits.

The mother and grandmothers dance everyday during the last week around the tranobe (kings house/circumcision house). They start early in the morning and most of them are already drunk then. The men go to the forest and chop down sacred tree, transport them on a boat to the village and then carry them on their shoulder x laps around the tranobe. The next day they craft wooden birds and paint them and tie them to the house.

The most fun part was the young men bringing the holy water to the house, disguised as attackers and actually throwing sticks at the defenders (the fathers and uncles of the circumcised boys). Arif and Brett got caught in the middle and were hit by sharp bamboo sticks, not really a pleasant experience. And these were not the only casualties, other men got injured as well (we women were kept out of the way).

All the above mentioned parts took place basically everyday at one of the ten tranobes in the village. The final was last Friday, when the parade on the beach took place. People gather in their tranobe to walk along the beach to the edge and get the benediction, whatever that might be in English. This walk is done in memory of the ancestors who came from the Arabic land. Since it was a long journey, we had to rest and sat down in the sand every few minutes. All the time singing of courses, cheering for the circumcised boys and celebrating the journey.

I say we, because me and Kate, an Australian girl we met, were permitted to participate. Under certain conditions though: we had to have our hair braided, had to were a non-open lamba (=sarong), needed a hat, a non-black T-shirt that covered out shoulders and were not allowed to wear any shoes. At the last thing I went uh-uh, the beach is basically infected with parasites and glass, but I figured that among all the thousands of people walking along the beach, the parasites would not choose my humble feet. To save time and money, Kate and I bought the same fabric for the lamba and had a local woman make s skirt. We figured it would be strange being in the same green colour, but it turned out to be a lucky thing: Upon arrival at “our” tranobe we met three older women who had the same fabric too – and we just started laughing and ended up holding hands with these women most of the walk. Now that was a fun experience.

Anyhow, we made it to the edge of the beach. There we were all sprinkled by sea water and had to wash our face, neck, hands, legs and feet in the sea too. When everyone was done, sudden cheering erupted and we walked home in a quick pace, singing different songs.
Much of the symbolism is still unclear to me, but I will do some serious research when I get home. There were lots of photographers and film crew around, mostly French people, so there is bound to be some good info available soon.

Sorry, but that is about it for my brain. I will now go an buy a yoghurt, need a treat, and then reveal to Brett that his USB has a virus…


Author: Ulrike

Well, never afraid to try stuff and always chating with someone...I am in for late nights, whether it is work or dancing...and I am a morning person too. My favourites include in a non particular order: Muse, Kylie, chocolate, coconut stuff and ice cream.

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