Madagascar Culture, Music and Art

Madagascar Culture, Music and Art


Apart from customs, manners and traditions, cultural forms of behavior and ways of thinking in Madagascar cannot be generalized, but tendencies can be identified. So “Mora mora” (= “Nice and slow!”) Is not just a saying, but stands for an attitude towards life and the meaning of time. Most Madagascans do not have a hurry or impatience. However, the belief in destiny also plays a role, the confidence that everything will turn out well – borne by the view that is characterized by striving for harmony and avoiding conflict. One should confuse Mora-Mora, i.e. calm and serenity, but not with unreliability, inconsistency or even laziness. Generally speaking, the Malagasy people are polite, quiet reactions and friendly behavior are significant. The mostly indirect communication and the avoidance of direct criticism is typical for conversations. Personal problems are also not always told to everyone. Madagascar is famous for its hospitality and the friendliness with which you treat almost everyone.

Due to the diversity of the ethnic groups in Madagascar, the country shows an exceptionally high level of cultural wealth, which is reflected in different traditions and customs. Expressions of cultural attitudes can also be found in storytelling, literature, music and dance, in the theater, in craftsmanship and in architecture.

Madagascar Culture


The orally transmitted culture is expressed in the art of storytelling (Hainteny), in the art of speech (Kabary), in proverbs (Onabolana) and in fairy tales (Angano). Only in the 20th century did the written form of language develop as literature. The Malagasy people are proud of their individual literary style, which differs considerably from the literary traditions of the French colonial power, but also from other African models. Well-known modern authors are for example Raharimanana or Johary Ravaloson.

Music and dance

According to payhelpcenter, the traditional musical instrument of the Malagasy highlands is the valiha, a bamboo pole that is strung with strings and sounds similar to a guitar. Other musical instruments are the mandolin, the ukulele, and various drums. Music and dances in Madagascar are quite different depending on the ethnic group, but are often based on traditional forms of expression. But modern styles of music are also establishing themselves, through which young people in particular can convey their feelings and political views.

Theater and cinema

While the first theater ensembles were founded in the 19th century, the importance of theater in today’s Madagascar has declined significantly. The traditional street theater (hira gasy) is still very much alive and is played by folk groups in markets and streets. For the first time since 1990, a cinema has reopened its doors in Antananarivo.


Painting in Madagascar is not pronounced, but some artists have become known anyway. These include, for example, James Rainimaharosoa (1860-1926), Henri Ratovo (1881-1929) or Joseph Ramanakamonjy.


The manufacture of mohair carpets has a long tradition in Madagascar, as well as the manufacture of wickerwork, silver jewelry and wood carvings. The Zafimaniry wood carvings are part of the intangible world cultural heritage. The town of Ambositra in particular is famous for its wood carving art.


As different as the people from Madagascar are, so are their settlement methods and architecture. The architecture often resembles Southeast Asian construction methods. The cult of ancestors also plays a major role in the way the Malagasy people settled. Different building materials from nature are used to build houses, but it was not until the end of the 19th century that stones were also used. Before that, they had only been used as tombstones. The house itself follows established rules of the ancestor cult. The construction itself, on the other hand, often depends on the building materials and the climate; Construction is more compact in the highlands, but lighter in the hotter east. Wealthy residents of Madagascar like to live in so-called pank houses made of wood to look very picturesque for the tourist. Two-story adobe houses are typical of the highlands, while in the coastal regions you can often see pile dwellings, the roof of which is traditionally made of palm leaves and the basic structure of bamboo. In the urban environment you will find modern brick-built houses alongside colonial-style villas and concrete houses with idiosyncratic architecture.


Sport plays an important role in Madagascar, at least in the sections of the population who can find the time and money to do so. Many people are enthusiastic about football, even the poorer Madagascans can afford to play football on the zebu pasture with a self-made football made from plastic bags. In 2019, Madagascar surprisingly reached the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup. However, many of the other sports such as track and field, rugby, boxing, tennis, volleyball and basketball are reserved for the wealthy. International successes are sparse: In 2011, tennis player Zarah Razafimahatratra won the African junior tennis championships. At the Olympic Games(Participation since 1964) the athletes have never been able to win a medal. The sport Madagascar is known for is the Moraingy (Malagasy) or Moringue (French), a traditional martial art. The game of p├ętanque, a legacy of the French colonial era, is also popular.