Does it fit? Tsina Endor on making peace with the taboo in rural Madagascar

Photo: Zebu, which originated in Southern Asia, are revered in Madagascar. It is thought that zebu originally arrived by ship; according to local lore, the first zebu came from the ocean and was hairless. Photo by Olivier Lejade (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Zebu, which originated in Southern Asia, are revered in Madagascar. It is thought that zebu originally arrived by ship; according to local lore, the first zebu came from the ocean and was hairless. (Photo: Olivier Lejade (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

In the ancestor worshipping religion practiced across Madagascar’s 18 tribes, the zebu – a species of domestic cattle originating in South Asia – is integral to marking life’s milestones.

When a child gets its first haircut, the clippings are stirred into zebu back fat and eaten by family members with a rum chaser; when a boy is circumcised, his mother and sister prepare a zebu feast to win the respect of the village; and when a person dies, their memorial stone is crowned with a zebu horn and consecrated with its blood.

“People in rural areas who can’t afford zebu can’t do anything,” said Tsina Endor, head of volunteering at Madagascar-focused NGO Azafady, who gave a series of lectures onboard Peace Boat last month. “Some people in the south say they only work to have zebu; they don’t care about having a good house or wearing good clothes, they just want to get zebu so that they can do —> Read More Here

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