The Antandroy
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The Antandroy

People of the Spiny Desert

People of the Spiny Desert

Tandroys live in the south of Madagascar; their territory is called "the Androy," which is known to be the "spiny desert". They are traditionally a nomadic tribe, moving depending on climatic conditions and seasons. Nowadays, their ethnic group includes many clans and ethnic backgrounds of diverse origins.


  • Region is Southern Africa

  • Climate here is Arid

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers



Antandroy people practice pastoralism and horticulture, supplemented by gathering. The herding of zebu cattle usually indicates one's status and wealth. The cultivation is mostly for subsistence because of the harsh climate of the area; their crops include maize, manioc, sorghum, sweet potatoes, legumes, groundnuts, and cucurbits. Many families migrated to larger cities to earn money because of the challenging climate.


The size of villages depends on the area; they can include a family of few members to hundreds of people. The traditional house is rectangular, built with long timber planks walls and thatched roof. In contemporary towns, houses are built with cement and corrugated iron roofs.


Social Structure

The Tandroy family is patriarchal. Women usually have defined tasks, including gathering and preparing food, harvesting of crops, and caring for children and the home. Generally, they also sell goods at local markets while men trade in cattle and goats.


The Tandroy believe in God as the creator and worship the ancestors. Some are today Christian.


"Fady" are the taboos given by elders and ancestors, and they dictate the everyday life of the Tandroy. Women, for instance, can’t milk zebus according to the tradition.

Music is essential for the Tandroy people as it is part of their social and spiritual life, and particular songs are played depending on the event celebrated (spirit possession, circumcision, healing rituals, and births).


They speak a dialect of the Malagasy language.


They play instruments such as musical bows, rattles, drums, conch shell, fiddle, calabash-resonated chordophone, rattle, and xylophones created with materials found in the forest. They also use hissing and screaming during traditional songs. Some necessary Mikea ancient instruments include the Marovany, a wooden box zither, and the valiha bamboo tube zither.

Traditional dances are still practised today, and they accompany all rituals.


Funerals are important ceremonies and are very elaborated. Before the official burial, the deceased remains in the house for a lengthy period, that could be weeks or even months.

The tombs are build by the members of the community, and it can take up to a year to complete building them, also depending on the deceased’s social status. Tombs are large and rectangular and decorated with paintings. Family members organize a funeral feast, during which animals are sacrificed. Each Tandroy community has its own ceremonies that follow the burial. Usually, the deceased's house is set on fire after the funeral, and family and community members do not visit the tomb ever again.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Make sure to visit the Museum of the Tandroy, which is considered one of the best museums in the country!

The Tandroy contribute to the conservation of some of the forest's areas because it is where they bury their dead in the traditional tombs. This area is considered sacred, and it is under strict control. It is fady and disrespectful to point with one’s finger at anything, including flora or fauna, in the area.

Photo credits

Isalo national park in Madagascar

"Malagasy Kids" by Rod Waddington is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

"Slow and Easy, Madagascar" by Rod Waddington is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

"Antandroy traditional dancing" by Woodlouse is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Malagasy traditional tomb

Traditional fisherman's hut