Portrait of a Malagasy Man

Angano: Cultural Treasure of Madagascar

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Angano: Cultural Treasure of Madagascar

Angano or Tales are kinds of stories that are drawn from oral traditions, facts that have happened in society or imagined stories that are used to remove pain and loathing. They “travel” the imagination as well as the mind and are especially dedicated to children. There are many kinds of tales that can tell things that make you sad, other kinds that make you happy and others that scare etc.

Nicolas Madagascar expert

The Angano in Madagascar

When we ask the elderly today about the Angano, there is one thing in common in the answers: the Malagasy tale is a story, a shared story to “give lessons” to contemporaries about an increasingly distant and more and more fabulous past; yet, in the 1950s, many storytellers still swore that what they were telling was strictly true and that one had to believe in it or face negative fallout. There was no formal difference between the myth and the tale, the whole vision of the world and the beliefs of the Malagasy are indeed contained in the myth/tale and it is the storyteller who is the all-powerful and traditionally “an old woman” who acts as it.

The last lesson of any Malagasy tale ends with the phrase “angano, angano, arira, arira, tsy izaho no mpandainga fa ny ntaolo” which means “it’s just a fable, a joke, it’s not me [the storyteller] who is a liar but the elders,” would be an addition (or generalization) of the second half of the 19th century suggested or imposed by Christian missionaries in their efforts to “desecrate the Malagasy myth” and to show that Malagasy fairy tales are bad examples. Indeed, the best-known tales are those of the two accomplices Ikotofetsy sy Imahaka (the tale of cunning) which talks about deception and from which we can learn a lot. To these stories deemed “immoral” are added those of the ogre whose adventures are told to frighten children and tell them to be obedient.

Malagasy Child
Malagasy Child

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The place of the Angano 

The Angano occupies a place apart in the traditional literary genres of Madagascar by its permanence; it went from oral to written without many revolutions in form and practice. The method of oral transmission of the tradition has given a great part to the story for all that is fundamental information to be given to children and young people.

History thus occupies an important place in the education and culture of young Malagasy people. This has been transmitted orally since the dawn of time but with the evolution of technology they are now found in books, textbooks, radio or television programs, storytelling circles organized by school structures or cultural centres but the themes have changed, those celebrating the most common such as the story of  deception are told less and less and now these stories have evolved over time.

Malagasy Family
Malagasy Family

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The characteristics of the Angano

The Angano is first and foremost a story from the storyteller’s imagination. This imagination is followed by fiction and romanticism. These are the three pillars for making a good story for children according to the Malagasy people. By telling this story, the children also awaken their imagination which allows them to experience an adventure and to come out of reality less good than the dream, which is why imagination is necessary in Angano. Fiction is also important because it expresses the desire to achieve something better than what you already have. Adding romance to Angano is the key to ending the story beautifully and showing children that every story ends well, and it can be a lesson they can learn to face life.

Then, as in any story there are two kinds of role in Angano there is the protagonist the character who characterizes goodness and the antagonist the one who is bad and characterizes wickedness. The purpose of each story is to learn a lesson from it. Angano is precisely a story told to children with an innocent soul, and it is also a way of educating them. From these stories we can teach children what is right and what is wrong. Good in general always ends up winning and finds happiness and evil ends up being punished and finds unhappiness.

We must make sure to convince the children by telling the story in Angano because the children as such consider that these stories are authentic and thanks to their imagination they dream and travel in adventure which is in a wonderful world which they consider as real while listening to the story. The storyteller must then be as convincing as possible for the story to be credible and for the children to believe it.

Finally, what is important in angano is the fact that it must educate, charm, awaken the imagination and move people who carry within them the necessary reason for being and necessarily come from the cultural identity of the country.

Malagasy Boys
Malagasy Boys

Photo : Flick user Rod Waddington

Example of Angano 

It is the story of two young men called Ikotofetsy which means Ikoto the cunning and Imahakà which means the one who makes haggard. They are the heroes of a series of adventures and misadventures during which the two accomplices use and abuse their intelligence or rather their cunning, their wickedness and their deception to deceive, steal, rob people. The more unfair, the better. But we can learn a lot from these stories.

This is how the meeting of these two mythical characters takes place:

Ikotofetsy from the north caught a crow that was flying over his house and put it in a basket. Not having enough money to eat, he decided to go to the market with his crow to earn money and sell it. Since the crow cannot be eaten, he knew no one would buy it, so he told everyone that it was fatty chicken. Since the crow is in a basket, no one can see that it is not a chicken. As for Imahakà, for his part, he shapes a terracotta shovel that he paints in a metallic colour. After finishing his fake shovel, he also goes to the market to sell it in order to earn money for food. At that time, the market was outside and barter was very common.

Our two young men passed each other on the road to the market and after a discussion on the way, the two decided to swap the fatty chicken for the shovel.

Ikotofetsy tells Imahakà that he has a very fatty chicken, but since he is a bit wild, he locks it in the basket. Imahaka, for his part, claims that his shovel is made of stainless steel and it is one of the latest technology. However, Ikotofetsy warns Imahakà not to open the bag too early as the chicken is a bit wild and may run away. For his part, Imahaka advises not to use the shovel immediately.

After doing the barter, each went their own way to return home convinced they had done a good deal. But the two didn’t wait until they got home to see the so-called fatty chicken or try the so-called stainless steel shovel. As soon as Imahakà opened the bag, the crow flew away. For his part, Ikotofesty tried the shovel and it broke into a thousand pieces.

They were angry with each other, but more than that, they were amazed that there was anyone smarter than them. The two then decided to return to the market and met again. Their second meeting was explosive, but since they were both intelligent, they struck a deal, and so begins the saga of the two most famous and intelligent heroes of Malagasy tales.

And beware if you meet them!

Angano, angano, arira, arira, tsy izaho no mpandainga fa ny ntaolo. It’s just a fable, a joke, it’s not me [the storyteller] who is a liar but the elders.

Read the Madagascar Travel Guide by Nicolas

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