Portal:Madagascar

The Madagascar Portal

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Location of Madagascar

Madagascar (/ˌmædəˈɡæskər, -kɑːr/; Malagasy: Madagasikara), officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara Malagasy pronunciation: [republiˈkʲan madaɡasˈkʲarə̥]; French: République de Madagascar), and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of East Africa. At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi) Madagascar is the world's second-largest island country. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world) and numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.

The archaeological evidence of the earliest human foraging on Madagascar may date up to 10,000 years ago. Human settlement of Madagascar occurred between 350 BC and 550 AD by Indianized Austronesian peoples, arriving on outrigger canoes from present-day Indonesia, where the contemporary social and religious situation were that of Hinduism and Buddhism, along with native Indonesian culture. These were joined around the 9th century AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel from East Africa. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into 18 or more subgroups, of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.

Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented assortment of shifting sociopolitical alliances. Beginning in the early 19th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of Merina nobles. The monarchy ended in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the island gained independence in 1960. The autonomous state of Madagascar has since undergone four major constitutional periods, termed republics. Since 1992, the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo. However, in a popular uprising in 2009, president Marc Ravalomanana was made to resign and presidential power was transferred in March 2009 to Andry Rajoelina. Constitutional governance was restored in January 2014, when Hery Rajaonarimampianina was named president following a 2013 election deemed fair and transparent by the international community. Madagascar is a member of the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. (Full article...)

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Bottles of yellow and orange sauce
Lemon and mango pickles (achards) traditionally accompany meals in the northwestern coastal regions of Madagascar.

Malagasy cuisine encompasses the many diverse culinary traditions of the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. Foods eaten in Madagascar reflect the influence of Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European migrants that have settled on the island since it was first populated by seafarers from Borneo between 100 CE and 500 CE. Rice, the cornerstone of the Malagasy diet, was cultivated alongside tubers and other Southeast Asian staples by these earliest settlers. Their diet was supplemented by foraging and hunting wild game, which contributed to the extinction of the island's bird and mammal megafauna. These food sources were later complemented by beef in the form of zebu introduced into Madagascar by East African migrants arriving around 1,000 CE. Trade with Arab and Indian merchants and European transatlantic traders further enriched the island's culinary traditions by introducing a wealth of new fruits, vegetables, and seasonings.

Throughout almost the entire island, the contemporary cuisine of Madagascar typically consists of a base of rice served with an accompaniment; in the official dialect of the Malagasy language, the rice is termed vary ([ˈvarʲ]), and the accompaniment, laoka ([ˈlokə̥]). The many varieties of laoka may be vegetarian or include animal proteins, and typically feature a sauce flavored with such ingredients as ginger, onion, garlic, tomato, vanilla, salt, curry powder, or, less commonly, other spices or herbs. In parts of the arid south and west, pastoral families may replace rice with maize, cassava, or curds made from fermented zebu milk. A wide variety of sweet and savory fritters as well as other street foods are available across the island, as are diverse tropical and temperate-climate fruits. Locally produced beverages include fruit juices, coffee, herbal teas and teas, and alcoholic drinks such as rum, wine, and beer. (Full article...)

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Photographed at Berenty Reserve
The Madagascan big-headed turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis) is a turtle native to the waters of permanent slow moving rivers and lakes in western Madagascar. These turtles are critically endangered and have been evaluated to be the most endangered turtle in the world by a 2018 review. Despite their vulnerability to extinction, they are commonly eaten for food and they are still commonly shipped from Madagascar to Asia to help meet the demand of Asia's traditional medicine market. A captive breeding program has also been started to prevent the species from becoming extinct. The Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF) intends to raise US$5.6 million to cover a five-year 'Global Action Plan' which includes captive breeding and reintroduction projects, trade monitoring, new rescue centers, local conservation plans, and educational programs. (Full article...)

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Map of Madagascar indicating the distribution of predominant construction material over the island
The distribution of traditional construction materials in Madagascar presents a predominance of earthen dwellings in the central Highlands and largely plant-based construction along the coasts, with intermediary zones making use of both material types.

The architecture of Madagascar is unique in Africa, bearing strong resemblance to the construction norms and methods of Southern Borneo from which the earliest inhabitants of Madagascar are believed to have immigrated. Throughout Madagascar and the Kalimantan region of Borneo, most traditional houses follow a rectangular rather than round form, and feature a steeply sloped, peaked roof supported by a central pillar.

Differences in the predominant traditional construction materials used serve as the basis for much of the diversity in Malagasy architecture. Locally available plant materials were the earliest materials used and remain the most common among traditional communities. In intermediary zones between the central highlands and humid coastal areas, hybrid variations have developed that use cob and sticks. Wood construction, once common across the island, declined as a growing human population destroyed greater swaths of virgin rainforest for slash and burn agriculture and zebu cattle pasture. The Zafimaniry communities of the central highland montane forests are the only Malagasy ethnic group who have preserved the island's original wooden architectural traditions; their craft was added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003. (Full article...)

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Tolanaro.jpg
Credit: Henry Trotter

The city of Tôlanaro, Madagascar from the top of a mountain.

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