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Exploring the unique Mikea culture

Exploring the unique Mikea culture, lifestyle, and origins

The primitive tribe called MIKEA

The Mikea people are individuals who escaped from a military war in the 18th century. They fled into the forest to avoid facing the invasions of colonizers and eventually established their tribe there.

Living in autarky within a 3500 square kilometer dry forest called Mikéa, the Mikea survive by hunting and gathering. Despite being often associated with the earliest Malagasy peoples known as “vazimba,” they are considered normal despite their unique way of life.

The Mikea, a small community comprised of around 400 individuals, belong to different Malagasy ethnic groups. The name “Mikea” not only refers to the forest they inhabit but also signifies a lifestyle that symbolizes a rebellion against civilization.

Lifestyle

The Mikea people have a very primitive way of life and are independent from other ethnic groups in Madagascar. They have their own customs, culture, and dialect, which originates from the south of Borneo.

For food, the Mikea people hunt for hedgehogs and porcupines, as well as gather honey and yams. They also cultivate cassava and maize for sustenance. They travel long distances to hunt and gather food.

In terms of hydration and cooking, they use water from watery tubers and a root called “bahoho,” which has high water content. They also collect rainwater during the rainy season.

The community holds traditional knowledge about healing plants and practices spiritual beliefs centered around ancestor worship. Their belief system includes a single creator God called Zanahary, as well as an forest spirit known as koko.

Like other ethnic groups, the Mikea people have their own culture based on music, which plays a significant role in their social and spiritual lives. They incorporate singing into social events such as funerals, healing rituals, possession by spirits, or circumcisions. Additionally, they engage in traditional sports like wrestling.

Exploring the Mikea Region

The Mika thorny forest is a place filled with history and culture. It’s a tropical forest that grows in a relatively flat and sandy region, boasting exceptional biodiversity. The wildlife and plants are still in their natural state, with many endemic plants rich in medicinal properties. This semi-arid forest is perfect for hiking and observing the diverse vegetation and animals. There are over 40 bird species, including 98 endemic ones, such as the long-tailed ground roller and Bensch’s monias. Additionally, more than nine lemur species inhabit the forest.

Visitors can admire over 24 fish species in this unique environment, especially three that are found nowhere else. Despite threats from human exploitation and deforestation endangering the Mika ethnic groups, there are still around fifty reptile species thriving here.

Apart from the forest, visitors can also explore underground caves containing freshwater pools inhabited by blind fish.

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