The Mikea
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The Mikea

Mystical Hunter-Gatherers

Mystical Hunter-Gatherers

The Mikea is one of the last tribal groups living in Madagascar. This minority group of Malagasy inhabits the Mikea Forest and counts around 1500 members. Their origin is unknown; some theories indicate that they are descendants of the Vazimba indigenous group, others speculate that they are descendants of some Malagasy people which escaped the French invasions by hiding in the forest. Still today, they are considered very mysterious since they are usually very discreet and avoid strangers.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Southern Africa

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

Mikea people are mostly hunter-gatherers; however, they became breeders and farmers in the past decades. They hunt hedgehogs and other small games, and fish, they collect honey, wild yams, edible plants, and fruits. They started growing cassava and corn.
Home

Home

Mikea’s settlements are small; they include a couple of huts inhabited by a couple of families. Some Mikeas moved to bigger villages. However, some decided to live traditionally, in square bark huts with thatch peaked roofs. They also move according to the climatic conditions.

Culture

Social Structure

Their social structure varies from community to the next. One village usually consists of a large family of around 50 people, ruled by the oldest man, which is also the decision-making authority for the group. Men typically marry many wives.

Religion

Mikea people worship their ancestors, which are believed to have inhabited some sacred trees, and believe in spirits. Offerings and ceremonies are performed to honour the supreme God, called Andrianajanahary, and the spirits.

Traditions

Music is vital for the Mikea 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).

Traditional medicine is still practiced. The village’s healers are highly respected and considered very powerful.

Language

They speak a dialect of the Malagasy language.

Art

They play instruments such as musical bows, rattles, drums, and xylophones created with materials found in the forest. They also use hissing and screaming during traditional songs. Some essential Mikea ancient instruments include the Marovany, a wooden box zither, and the valiha bamboo tube zither.

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

They are known to create masks using human hair and teeth.

Celebrations

Mikea people's essential celebrations include religious functions and one’s most significant life events.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

The Mikea Forest is today protected, and it is going to become a national park in the future. The government decided to forbid the Mikea people from using slash-and-burn agriculture to prevent the deforestation of the area.



Photo credits

Tropical river in Madagascar
iStock.com/dennisvdw

"Malagasy Woman" by Rod Waddington is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

"Wheelbarrow Fun" by Rod Waddington is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Madagascar fishermen
iStock.com/pierivb

Madagascar lemur
iStock.com/no_limit_pictures

Andringitra National Park
iStock.com/Lubo Ivanko