It is a proud moment to be able to celebrate a long held Malagasy tradition and art form, Kabary, as UNESCO's official inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Kabary shares the list of inscription with Inuit drum dancing and singing, Truffle hunting & extraction, Traditional foodways in Kenya, and other gorgeous heritage forms we're excited to also learn about.
Although the list came out at the end of 2021, we think this special event deserves its own day to celebrate and learn more about the art form of Kabary!
Watch this video below prepared by UNESCO and Madagascar's Ministry of Communication and Culture (MCC) for its collaboration on what kabary looks and sounds like and its purposed served in the Malagasy society. In short, Kabary is "a poeticized speech performed in front of an audience. It is highly structured and consists of proverbs, maxims, rhetorical figures, and wordplay."
Kabary is a poeticized speech which is traditionally performed in front of a large audience. It serves many purposes and was historically used by monarchs and leaders to inform the public about social life and administration. It is said that Andrianampoinimerina, the first Merina monarch to unite and solidify the Merina under 1 kingdom, used long and excessive speeches to communicate to his citizens, most who were illiterate at the time, to inform as much about the kingdom's news. Over the years, kabary has become deeply imbedded into the Malagasy social life and to be used for many different special occasions ranging from funerals, weddings, official ceremonies, and popular events.
According to UNESCO:
In practice, Malagasy kabary takes place as a conventional dialogue, usually involving two orators, or mpikabary, in front of a gathering. It can last several hours, but in certain circumstances (such as during funerals), the structure is simplified to last around ten minutes.
What is traditionally performed by older men, kabary is increasingly performed by younger folks and women, which is a refreshing take on how culture rituals can evolve with time.
At the family level, it contributes to cohesion when performed at meetings where all generations are present and partake in the performance. In the public sphere, it is viewed as a means of strengthening relationships between groups and communities, creating an atmosphere of sharing and cohesion.
Now I know where I get my knack for carrying on long rambling speeches from. It's in my blood!