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When a Sakalava king of the Northwest dies, his family and his subjects respected – until now – all funeral rites. “In the past, it has been customary for the body of the deceased to be kept for several months. Today, this period is reduced to a fortnight, “writes René-Lucien Cagnat, head of the district of Ambanja which recounts the funeral of King Raschid who died in 1940.
The subjects express their mourning through their clothing and … hygiene. Thus, all the women untied their hair, keep the bare shoulders and dress with a “salovana”, simply draping a lambahoany around the body. Men go bare-headed and without shoes. No one should wash as long as the funeral does not take place and it is not allowed to sacrifice to coquetry.
Every evening at sunset and in the mornings at sunrise, the women gather to sing around the mortuary enclosure made of ravinala or falafa. This ceremony is accompanied by the continuous beating of elongated drums (hazolahy) with the deaf, grave and funereal sound.
The coffin is called “taboty” outside Tuesday, Thursday
And Sunday considered “fady” days and during which it is forbidden to work. A special wood is used for this purpose, the copalier (mandrorofo) which produces a resinous and perfumed seed. If the tree can not be found in the immediate vicinity
Of the royal village (doany), it is sought in the bottom of the bay of Ampasindava where copaliers are planted by the Arabs towards the fifteenth or the sixteenth century.
During all this period of funeral “vigil”, the assistants gathered at the “doany” consume with strong libation the offerings brought and oxen are killed in large numbers. With the coffin ready, the body of the Mpanjaka is wrapped in various silk canvases of color seeing called “dalahany”. During this operation, the women and the “hazolahy” continue to lend their help. The ritual invocations are called “kolondoy”; They are sacred and are sung only on the occasion of the death of the king.
Before the coffin is closed, the ceremony “mosarafa” takes place. The members of the royal family and the principal Sakalava were given white linen for men and lambahoany for women, all of which had been bought in memory of the deceased king. Only the family, the pure-bred Sakalava and the Sambarivo must be present at the ceremony. When the time came to nail the coffin, the songs of the women and the rolling of the drums redoubled in intensity to cover the blows of the hammer.
Then a “perfumed beef” (omby manitra) is cut down, the fat of which will be used to coat the outside of the catafalque.
Until 1919, the royal village was in the Antafy peninsula by the sea, and the coffin was transported directly by canoe to Nosy Faly. Subsequently, the
“Doany” being in Ankatafa in the plain of Sambirano, the coffin is transported to
Place of docking (tafia), in this case the village of Ambiky in the bottom of the bay of Tsimipaika.
This transfer must not take place one day “fady”, at any time, but always in secret. The coffin covered with tavoniomby, a white sheet decorated with two large purple strips with golden embroidery, is at the head of the procession which is formed along the way, carried by four men, two Sambarivo, in front of the deceased’s feet, and two Sakalava of pure race, behind, at his head.
Four Marovavy women of the royal court remain at the height of the coffin each waving a fan (fihimpa). The crowd follows in a perfect order, singing the monotonous verse: “Andraraiko Andriana” (Prince my father, O Prince). “These two words alone repeat themselves indefinitely, while the hazolahy will not interrupt his accompaniment to Ambiky. “