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The word “hova” has three meanings depending on the region. Thus in Imerina “Hova” means a separate social class, next to the reigning nobles (Andriana),
Mainty “and the category of slaves (Andevo). “Hova” can therefore mean commoner. By hierarchizing the two classes Andriana and Hova, Andrianampoinimerina declares: “The Hova must never reign. If there is a marriage between a Hova and an Andriana, she transmits all her rights to her children … “
In addition, to a note addressed to her with the heading “To Her Majesty the Queen of the Hova”, Ranavalona I replied one day with a plea of ​​inadmissibility: “I am not only the Queen of the Hova, But of all the Merina. However, for all littoral peoples and foreigners, “Hova” evokes a tribe, the inhabitants of the Imerina.
Among the Betsileo, especially those of the South of the Matsiatra, “hova” on the other hand is translated as sovereign by “andriana”. When the Vakinankaratra is annexed, the kingdom of Manandriana located in the North of the Matsiatra first recognized the authority of Andrianampoinimerina in the South. Like the King, he united the many small kingdoms of the South Matsiatra and managed to group them into three major principalities: Isandra, Lalangina and Arindrano. This sovereign is known in this territory under the name of “Hova”. Subsequently, the term is gradually used to designate the kings betsileo.
The author also cites an hypothesis attributed to the word “hova”, an oceanic origin (haou or hua, chief) of which only the Betsileo would preserve meaning. He refutes it, however, by the fact that “no name of the sovereigns known to this tribe was composed, whereas the word andriana served as elements of onomastic formation to sovereigns of various tribes of the island.”
On the other hand, the proper name Haova is common there and is given to the boy born one day of Alahamady (the first moon of the Malagasy year). It is the best zodiacal sign in the Malagasy, which is why it is called the “zodiac of the Andriana”. And Haova is thus considered the “invincible warrior.”
“This explanation leads one to believe that the word hova was known to the Betsileo only in recent times.” Moreover, “it is inconceivable that the Betsileo deliberately aligned freed slaves with their sovereigns by calling them Hovavao (new Hova), while the commoners are known to them as Olompotsy (white men). “
Especially since it is unlikely that the Betsileo accept this new expression somewhat outrageous, while the discriminatory practice in favor of the Andriana remains alive. Citing one example, Clovis Ralaivola evokes the funeral in which oxen are felled. The Andriana are the first to be served with the best pieces from the rump, part traditionally reserved for their rank.
The word “hova” has been adopted by some peoples of the South as an oil stain. This can be seen in certain expressions they use, such as “ampelakova” (wife of the sovereign), “fandakova” (continuation of the sovereign), “zanakova” (vassal chief) …
Clovis Ralaivola relates the term “hova” to other words translating the idea of ​​freedom,
Of independence, but also of secondary plane (ova, ovaka, lova, tovo …). “In its classical sense, that of the Hova was indeed freer and more independent than that of the Andriana, although it constituted the subjects of the kingdom. The Andriana are protocolarially free (marriage, trade, displacement, relations …) being subject to “special restrictions”.
It is this freedom that allows the Hova to leave the Imerina as itinerant traders, travelers or emigrants to other ethnic groups. These temporary or permanent migrants become known as Hova speaking of their class.
The first sailors or visitors who approach the coastline learn that the center of the island is inhabited by a tribe called “hova”.
“Thus the maps of Madagascar drawn up in the seventeenth century bore the terms Ankova and Tanko for its inhabitants. “
Later, they are called “borizano”. The origin of this word comes from the division of the inhabitants of the Imerina under Radama Ier: the military (miaramila) and the civilians (borizano). From that time, migratory civilians became known by this new name. Hence the name of a district of Toamasina, Tanamborizano.