For Madagascar’s first participation in the CAN, which was not won over by the beauty of the Barea’s official jerseys ? The fabric is of very good quality, but in addition, they are impregnated with the symbols of the zebu, the ravinala and the Aloalo. Most of us already know the first two symbols, but do you know the true meaning of this symbol ? So before supporting our national team, here is an article about everything good to know about Aloalo Malagasy. Have a good reading !

What is Aloalo Malagasy ?

Before you start, remove from your head that the Aloalo Malagasy is just a simple drawing stuck on the official jersey of our national football team… It’s not that at all ! Or rather not only that ! In fact, this are « Vita Malagasy » wooden sculptures that are mainly used as funeral poles for the Mahafaly and Antandroy ethnic groups in the south of the Grande-Île.

Aloalo malagasy is an art originating from the Mahafaly ethnic group in southwest Madagascar
Aloalo malagasy is an art originating from the Mahafaly ethnic group in southwest Madagascar

The art of Aloalo Malagasy is a culture originating from the Mahafaly ethnic group that appeared between the 16th and 17th centuries. Its neighbour, the Antandroy ethnic group, also became fond of this practice after a few years. According to the Malagasy Academy, Aloalo literally specifies ornament. It can therefore be considered as a totem pole. That’s why they fall into the category of funerary art.

What does Aloalo Malagasy really represent ?

Today, some Malagasy still firmly believe that Aloalo means exclusively death… I tell you, it is a preconceived notion. In the great south of Madagascar, these woodcarved arts are made in honour of the life of the person who has just died. They are built on the deceased’s tomb to decorate and embellish it.

Women and children are not allowed to attend the Aloalo malagasy depot ritual
Women and children are not allowed to attend the Aloalo malagasy depot ritual

But they also represent the importance given to people who are still alive. The practice of this art, to this day, strengthens and validates the respect that the Mahafaly and Antandroy have for their ancestors. Aloalo is officially part of Malagasy art, and is now very popular among the Mahafaly, Antandroy and other Malagasy ethnic groups.

On a tomb you can see at least two pairs of these sculptures. The social and economic status of the deceased is reflected in the number of Aloalo on the tomb. A very important detail, do not forget the objects at the top of the Aloalo, because they represent the personality, but also the memorable facts of the person’s life. On some Aloalo, zebus horns can be found to represent the prosperity of the deceased.

The different parts of the Aloalo

If you have already done some tourism in Madagascar, especially in the province of Toliara, you have probably noticed the different traditional patterns as well as the parts on the posts of Aloalo Malagasy. Indeed, you can see that the Aloalo Malagasy are on average 1.5m high.

They are divided into three distinct parts. First, there is the head of the Aloalo, where we see the scenes that represent the most unforgettable events in the life of the deceased. In the middle, the body is composed of several patterns. We find the full moon at the highest level, but also the sleeping puppy and the adornment alternating. And finally the foot of the Aloalo Malagasy where more than half of this part is stoned.

The Aloalo Malagasy is composed of three distinct parts, the highest of which represents the personality or significant events in the life of the deceased
The Aloalo Malagasy is composed of three distinct parts, the highest of which represents the personality or significant events in the life of the deceased

As I have already explained above, Aloalo is made of wood. Indeed, Aloalo is made with the special wood called Nendoravy. As tradition dictates, the deceased’s coffin and the Aloalo must be carved far enough from the village, preferably in a forest by a person outside the family.

Aloalo Malagasy today : a « modern » art

It is true that Aloalo is characteristic of the two tribes of southern Madagascar, Mahafaly and Antandroy, but with the advance of today’s world, Aloalo Malagasy does not remain on its status as a simple funeral post. Indeed, you can find the Aloalo in the house as a decoration.

Talented craftsmen have made key rings, jewellery, and even clothes just like Aloalo Malagasy
Talented craftsmen have made key rings, jewellery, and even clothes just like Aloalo Malagasy

But as you can also see in the various specialized shops, the Aloalo is now linked to clothes, jewellery, key chains, and many others. In short, our talented craftsmen have been inspired by this funerary art to create other craft products in order to give more value to « made in Mada » products.

After this short summary on Aloalo Malagasy, I hope you are finally focused on the definition and representation of this art. For you women, a little advice, these new Malagasy handicrafts will give an added value to your house. And for the men, you can proudly wear our national team jersey (always the ones that are authentic please) as a Malagasy patriot !

See also -> What are the habitants of Madagascar called ?

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