Living Vicariously As A Peripatetic Shutterbug

{ More musings from the Cantankerous Old Mule }


150310 610_5999I love the little booklets one gets on the ‘plane on the way into Madagascar. These in-flight brochures are compiled by the Ministry of Tourism, using an online translation tool (I suspect) because much of the information is as hilarious as it is informative. Every edition highlights one particular aspect of Malagasy life and culture. The last one, as I flew in to Antananarivo, was about wood and its diminishing availability. Here we have some extracts about the Zebu, Madagascar’s bovine breed.

“Before becoming a source of meat for consumption, the Zebu was originally a sacred animal. The story goes that a king named Ralambo, from the north of Antananarivo, had tasted this meat for the first time in the late sixteenth century and enjoyed it.

Linking it to the ceremony of the Royal Bath, at that period the national holiday dating back to ancient times, he brought in this new custom, which was to be observed until the end of the monarchy, namely the eating of Zebu meat. However, to demonstrate his supremacy to his subjects, he ordered the best part of the animal, namely the rump, to be reserved for him and his successors … The prestige attributed to the zebu continues to be observed and that is why it is chosen exclusively for sacrificial rituals such as the ‘joro’ … where men petition Zanahary and the ancestors, the blood spilt being considered a purification (sic) …

A symbol of wealth, the zebu is present in certain populations such as the ranchers of southern Madagascar, both in life and death. The Mahafaly, for example, insist that after death their cattle accompany them to the beyond. By slaughtering entire herds and mounting their sculls on their tombs, passers-by will be impressed by the great wealth the particular person amassed through his lifetime … In the past, zebu horn was used mainly for ritual ceremonies … but currently it is in a zebu horn that sorcerers place the many miscellaneous items that make up the ‘ody’, a word that can be translated as amulet or charm. Those who use these ‘ody’, which may be used for good or ill, rarely remove the filled horn attached around their necks with a small cord.”

Do I need to even give my opinion on these crazy cultures that keep people in bondage to their (long-dead) ancestors? From what I hear, to this day the rump is seen as the part of the zebu reserved for the rich – and the man on the street will not buy it voluntarily – all because of a custom dating back hundreds of years. This starving generation does not understand why it has been taught not to buy rump – only that it’s wrong – but it dares not turn against its exalted ancestors… I, for one, am grateful to King Ralambo for introducing Zebu meat to the general populace because it is very good – especially “fillet de Zebu au poivre vert” (Zebu fillet with green pepper sauce).

I found these Zebus grazing between some houses up where I live as I drove past on the lemon, and decided to try to show them off in a different light (literally) by shooting straight into the sun. I also shot with a wide angle lens, which was very challenging: the closer I got to each the more agitated they got. Or perhaps it was that I was wearing a red shirt?

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4 comments on “Big

  1. There_Lot
    March 10, 2015

    So glad I am royalty…love the light and perspective of the last photo..excuse me, time for dinner:-)

  2. rachelwhims
    March 10, 2015

    That last photo looks like a fun shot to take! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. Donna
    March 10, 2015

    Them’s some big Horns especially in the shadows. Great photos

  4. Andy
    March 11, 2015

    I love the last shot.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on March 10, 2015 by in Madagascar and tagged , , , , .
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