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The dance with the deads is a frantic flow in which people and corpses are bumping each others.
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5.00 am: at dawn the party officially starts and people from other villages and from bigger towns begin to come. Celebrations will last for the next 8 days.
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Relatives from all over Madagascar gathered in front of the brand new tomb waiting for the first corpses to come.
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Honorè and his cousin bringing out their beloved grandfather from the ancient tomb.
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Musicians tirelessly play a frantic music while the living and the dead are dancing all togheter.
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A popoular proverb in Madagascar says: "we cry for a fresh corpse, but we dance for an old one".
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The Malagasy believe that, when ancestors are taken out of the tomb, they are in strong communion with their viving descendants.
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Women clean the grains of rice from the sand: the family which organized the party has to provide food for all the incoming guests.
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Traditionally children can't enter inside the tomb, the malagasy people believe that this would bring a curse to the younger generation.
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The familiar graves are bigger than they appear from the outside: a tomb usually has two floors in height and one more level underground.
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Each tomb can host more than 200 bodies, the most ancients of them date back to the late XIX century.
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Every corpse has his own name written on the shroud, and an arrow indicates where the head is, so that the relatives can speak to him directly.
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One of the most popular proverbs concerning famadihana and domestic unity says: "alive, we live togheter in the same house. Dead, we live togheter in the same tomb".
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For 8 days before the famadihana starts, the living and the dead sleep under the same roof, in the same house. "Let me introduce you my father!", R. said.
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People start moving from the countryside before the sunrise to get to the village on time for the famadihana ceremony to begin.
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When the very first corpse comes out the tomb, many people are moved and excited at the same time.
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A child said: "when we take out the corpses we are glad, because we haven't seen them for a long time".
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Musicians tirelessly play a frantic music while the living and the dead are dancing all togheter.
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Despite the chaotic dances and the alcoholic inebriation, the dancing with the ancestor is a extremely intimate moment of communion between the living and the dead.
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The Malagasy wrap their deads as a sign of respect: the more shrouds a corpse gets, the more he prove to be loved from his descendants.
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During the ceremony a large amount of beers and toaka gasy (handmade rhum) are consumed by the guests.
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Children try to avoid the crowdy dance on the top of the tomb, near the malagasy flag.
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A child sharpening two long knives: before a new tomb is inaugurated, the spirits of the ancestors require a blood sacrifice.
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Children bring a malagasy cow (zebù) close to the new tomb for the sacrifice.
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The weight of the head of a zebù is around 66 lb. The strongest young men bring it to the village where the horns will be carved for ornamental purpose.
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Nene dancing with the body of her relatives. A popoular proverb in Madagascar says: "we cry for a fresh corpse, but we dance for an old one".
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Musicians tirelessly play a frantic music while the living and the dead are dancing all togheter
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An important part of the famadihana ritual is the banquet where all the relatives eat toghether rice and the meat of the sacrifical cows.
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For several days before the famadihana starts, the living and the dead rest under the same roof, drinking and singing all night long.
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Women collecting water from the village's well before they start to cook.

Une Belle Vie, Une Belle Mort

Ambositra region, Madagascar, 2015

The British anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer said that death has become "pornographic" to the westerners, an obscene content from which children must be kept safe. The fear of the death has been seen as an universal feature across both time and space: "Men fear death", and that has always been considered a fact. But this is not the case of Madagascar, where the worship of the ancestors is the national cult.

The most outstanding cultural feature all across Madagascar is the unique relationship that connect malagasy people to the death: they consider it as a simple step of the human development, conceptually not different from the transit between the childhood and the adult life. Being dead doesn't mean to have come to an end. Dead bodies, as well as newborns, can't talk, can't walk nor eat by themselves, but that doesn't mean that corpses can't feel regular needs: they can still get bored, hungry, happy or lonely.
This peculiar belief is in Madagascar far more from being just symbolic: every 3-5 years malagasy families gather around the tombs to celebrate a ritual called "famadihana". In that occasion they exhume the ancestors and with them they dance all night and day, drink hommade rhum, sacrifice cattle and talk to them about the latest updates from the village. Going along with the rythm of a frantic and rhapsodic music, the ritual tries to channel all the chaos of life in just few hours, so that the memory could be enough for the dead at least till the next famadihana.

When Désiré Maigrot (the first Italian Consul in Madagascar since 1878) died, his tombstone was engraved with the following words: "Une belle vie, une belle mort".

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