Kabary is a traditional form of Malagasy public speech, often conducted as a call-and-response dialogue, including rich use of metaphors and proverbs. Kabary was originally used at public gatherings in a pre-literate era and throughout the Imerina Kingdom. The practice was suppressed during the French colonisation but reemerged in political circles following independence. Still today, kabary is an integral part of the Malagasy culture and society.
Kabary and its less formalised counterpart resaka can include poetry and musical performances.
When used in politics, kabary and resaka can mediate change and help facilitate a democratic process. Kabary and resaka may also be used to negotiate local disputes and marriage dowries.
A mpikabary is a person proficient in the art of kabary. A mpikabary is often hired to represent a bride or groom during meetings between their respective families prior to the wedding. In case a family does not like the words or the proverbs used by the other family, the entire wedding can be called off.
In kabary the central point of the discussion is always avoided in direct words. For example, during a kabari at a funeral, the name of the deceased cannot be mentioned.