Digging up the Dead

Madagscan Christians have a different attitude to death

Digging up the Dead Madagascans are far less squeamish about death than we are. They say they’re Christians, but have no qualms about consecrating their relatives’ graves.
Today is the festival of Famadiha. An exuberant band play as crowds dance. At the centre of the throng the lid of a coffin is chipped off. After letting the smells dissipate a rotting corpse is lifted aloft and passed around the crowd. Curious children prod at the ripped shroud, pieces are taken for good luck. This is a ‘bone turning’ ceremony and it’s a joyous occasion. Many Madagscans believe that the soul lives on in the body. By exhuming the corpse they can tell their ancestors all that has happened and thank them for their spiritual help. Further west, the Saklavan clan takes the worship further. We attend the Fitampoha festival, a five-yearly extravaganza in praise of the relics of dead Sakalaven kings. It’s an amazing occasion full of dance, meditation, and ritual. In this beautifully shot film we witness the spirituality of Madagascar’s cultural life.

Produced by Marion Mayor-Hohdahl

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