The Antakarana of Madagascar
Pray for the Antakarana of Madagascar. They live at the far north of the island, isolated from others. Most are fishermen. Years ago during a civil war, the King made a vow that if his people survived, they would convert to Islam. They did survive and kept the vow, although they have mixed Islam with their traditional beliefs.
Pray that the Antakarana will “sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.” Isaiah 42:10
A cow sacrifice was made recently to call upon the ancestors through spirit possession to communicate to them about the TIMO team that will be living on Nosy Mitsio. Pray that God’s truth and power be made known so that the Antakarana people may be set free from bondage to their ancestors. Pray that the King would be ‘filled with joy because he has come to believe in God- he and his whole household.’ Acts 16:34
We praise the Lord for the in roads he has made for the Antakarana people. SIL are in the process of translating the gospel of Luke. Also, leaders for the team have been in contact for some months. They have already begun to learn language and the Antakarana way of life. The history of the Antakarana means that they have no scripture access to the “Christian” Merina dialect, since they were the ones oppressing them. Pray the Antakarana would have ears to hear the Good News in their own language.
Location and Background: The Antakarana, who are originally of mixed Austronesian, African and Arab ancestry, settled in the far north of Madagascar in the 12th c. with the town of Ambatoharanana considered their capital. They are called “People of the White Coral Rocks” as they live in a geographically isolated, rocky place. In the late 18th c they mixed with the Sakalava, and although they are now separate groups, they are still considered close. The Island of Nosy Mitsio has major significance because of the role it played during the Merina invasion.
History: During the Merina invasion, when the Antakarana were in danger of being wiped out, their king Tsimiaro I hid in caves with them for over a year. Life was difficult and many died. He prayed that if his people should survive, they would embrace Islam. He then took a group of people with him in dugout canoes to find refuge on the island of Nosy Mitsio and converted to Islam in the 1840s.
Culture: Some live as coastal fishermen, but in the interior the villagers harvest rice and raise cattle, as well as grow crops on a small scale. Others work in factories and do other work in towns. They see themselves as Antakarana before they consider themselves Muslim and are proud of their history and culture.
Religion: In this mix of folk Islam and animistic beliefs there are many deities and elements of nature that play a significant role. They adhere to many taboos in their daily lives. Elaborate burial rituals are the primary link between the living and the dead. The most significant event is the tsanga-tsaina, a festival which occurs every five years, in which they commemorate the arrival of the kings and royalty, and demonstrate their commitment to their king. The current king is Tsimiaro III.