Ethnic Groups

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Strictly speaking are the tribes of Madagascar ethnic groups with their own culture and religion. Many ethnic groups had their own kingdoms in the past. The cultural and religious background of the various tribes is dominated by ancestor worship, which sees the ancestors as mediators between the living and God.

Due to continuing population movements and mixing with each other it is very difficult to declare strict regional borders for all tribes.

  • Antaifasy - People of the sands
    Southeastern Madagascar: near Farafangana

  • Antaimoro or Antemoro - People of the coast
    Southeastern Madagascar: near Vohipeno and Manakara

  • Antaisaka or Antesaka (subgroup of Sakalava) - People of the valley
    Southern Madagascar: near Farafangana

  • Antankarana - Those of the rocks
    Northern Madagascar: near Diego-Suarez

  • Antambahoaka - Those of the people
    Southeastern Madagascar: near Mananjary

  • Antrandroy - People of the thorns
    Southern Madagascar: near Ambovombe

  • Antanosy - People of the island
    Southern Madagascar: near Taolagnaro (Ft. Dauphin)

  • Bara
    South-central Madagascar: near Isalo, Ihosy and Betroka

  • Betsileo - The many invincibles
    Southern-central highlands of Madagascar: especially around Fianarantsoa but also a splinter group in the Betsiboka region

  • Betsimisaraka - The many inseparables
    Eastern Madagascar: Toamasina to Antalaha

  • Bezanozano - Many small plaits
    Central highlands and eastern Madagascar: the area between the Betsimisaraka lowlands and the Merina highlands

  • Mahafaly - Those who make taboos or Those who make happy
    Southwestern Madagascar: desert around Ampanihy and Ejeda

  • Makoa or Mikea
    Western Madagascar

  • Merina - People of the highlands or Those from the country where one can see far
    Central highlands of Madagascar

  • St. Marians
    Ile Ste Marie (Nosy Boraha)

  • Sakalava - People of the long valleys
    Western Madagascar; widespread in this region

  • Sihanaka - People of the swamps
    Northeastern Madagascar: around Lake Alaotra

  • Tanala: Ikongo and Menabe - People of the forest
    Eastern Madagascar: near Manakara

  • Tsimihety - Those who do not cut their hair
    Northern Madagascar

  • Vazimba - Those which were always there
    All over Madagascar

  • Vezo (subgroup of Sakalava) - Fishing people
    Southwestern Madagascar: coastal regions

  • Zafimaniry
    South-central Madagascar: highlands near Ambositra

Additional information

  • No one is an island - The history of human genetic ancestry in Madagascar (Jul 2016,