The Antakarana of Madagascar

Population: 300,000

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.

What is being done to reach them with the gospel?

The history of the Antakarana means that they have not accessed the scriptures available in the Merina dialect. At the moment, an organisation called SIL are in the process of translating the gospel of Luke. Pray the Antakarana would have ears to hear the Good News in their own language. A TIMO team began serving amongst them on the island of Nosy Mitsio in November 2014.

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

Learn more about the Antakarana at Joshua Project or about Madagascar at Operation World.

Latest Prayer Updates:

School ministry

Praise that the Harvest team went well, the two men were fully a part of ministry and had a good impact on the young men in the community.
Pray for the school ministry. The Malagasy missionaries teaching Bible stories in the school were told they were no longer allowed to go. Pray for wisdom as the team tries to find out what the issues are from the community elders.


An Antakarana believer walked 4 hours to attend a fellowship group in a far-off village. Pray for wisdom as plans are being made to visit this man’s village to see about gathering the few believers there for fellowship. Ask for God’s wisdom to bring unity through their common ties to Christ. Pray against the attacks of the enemy, which are in full swing in this Muslim community: the village headman is now forbidding the teaching of Bible stories (previously permitted). Pray that this situation would give further opportunity to share the gospel, and that the Lord would keep the door for witness and discipleship open on this Little Island. Please also lift up P & F, Malagasy missionaries working amongst the Antakarana: they receive little support which isn’t enough to meet their personal needs, so pray for abundant provision from Jehovah Jireh.

Download a Prayer Sheet

An informative Prayer Sheet to keep on hand and to share with others

Link to Stories

Link to videos and articles about AIM’s ministry among the Antakarana

Bound to the Past

Based on the true stories of two of Madagascar’s least-reached peoples: the Sakalava and the Antakarana.

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