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The graves of the Vazimba

An ancient legend says that the first people in Madagascar were the Vazimba. They came from far away in boats across the great sea to colonize the new land they called Madagascar. According to legend, they found their home in the Tsingys, the needle-sharp rocks of Bemaraha, in western Madagascar.

To reach the Tsingys, one still has to cross the Manambolo. The big river is mainly navigated in small wooden pirogues. There seems to be no life along steep cliff edges – and yet the cliffs of the Tsingys are silent witnesses of the times. For under a narrow rock overhang, only a few kilometers from the village of Bekopaka, Vazimba who died since time immemorial have been buried.

Even today, the bones of dozens of people rest here. The coffins in which the Vazimba were buried have long since decayed. The skulls, arm, and leg bones are partly rubbed pearly white by the sand flying around. But fresh cloths, linen and rum bottles testify to the fact that even today Madagascans make pilgrimages to this burial place of their ancestors and ask for their blessing.

Foreigners are only allowed to visit the burial places by means of a pirogue when accompanied by certain villagers from Bekopaka. The selected villagers, descendants of the famous Vazimba, are believed to have a special connection to the ancestors. The visit follows a fixed, simple ceremonial. In a small Kabary, the Vazaha will be introduced to the ancestors. In addition, the Madagascans ask for the permission of the ancestors to visit the tombs. Not everyone is allowed to enter – accordingly great is the honor to be allowed to enter such a Malagasy sanctuary and to breathe real history.

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