Thursday , 23 May 2024
The Sambatra or collective circumcision is a major traditional event celebrated every seven years by ethnic Antambahoaka population. It is a vibrant local tradition whose importance echoes so loud beyond regional and even national borders that the Diaspora does not think twice before joining Mananjary. In 2014, a year said of good omens for beginning on a Wednesday, the fervor of a people deeply attached to its identity feels as warm as ever. 36 years old Mamy Flavien holds the event as some sort of a double homecoming, an opportunity to dare the odds and make up for the fate basically assigned to him at birth; he, who had the misfortune to be the second born child of twin brothers.

Sambatra 2014, the saga of a twin brother’s recovery of the land of his ancestors

Still, Mamy Flavien holds this event as an opportunity to reconnect with his roots at first. “I never had the privilege to experience the Sambatra in my time. The time to catch up has come together with my son’s turn to make the discovery… again, so to say, because he was already circumcised there three years ago,” he sighed. As a result, father and son went walked the long way back to their Antambahoaka families. The rest of the clan rather waits for Halloween and the holiday time to come to emulate. “The decision proved more problematic than it seemed, but I am convinced that my son and I have to feel the identity of our ancestors inside ourselves. I myself recovered and reconnected to that identity at 35, only one year ago. I do not want my son to struggle as much to achieve this” he explained. In his youth, Mamy Flavien never really bothered to question his past in any way of any kind. “I knew I was an adopted boy. I had wonderful parents, what else would I had wanted to know, and what for?” he said. His stepparents disclosed his story anyway shortly before passing away. They were not able to bear children by themselves, so they decide to welcome a twin born boy from an Antambahoaka family which was not allowed to keep him because of the ancestral taboo proper to this ethnic group of the southeast of Madagascar. His parents passed away; Mamy Flavien mourned them the way a son is expected to mourn his parents, then decided to head for Mananjary to find his biological family out. He conceded that the encounter with those who brought him to earth was rather cold. “They were probably expecting little but grudge from me, or possibly misfortune from my very simple presence” he regretted. Fortunately, the reunion developed much better between the twin brothers. “Apart from his darker complexion, we share most of the same features, but he looks older than I am, most likely due to his harder conditions of living, like I had nearly everything for myself while he had been struggling. Who knows, which one of us destiny has actually favored ” did Mamy Flavien describe. To the question about his full recovery of the Antambahoaka identity, Mamy Flavien replies “no”. “It is merely one part of what I am, a component of my identity; little more than the stock I am from. We, Malagasy as a whole, vastly more commit to what becomes of us when the whistle blows and the time to leave this world finally comes. I am and still remain the son and descent of my adoptive parents. They are gone now, and I will join them and no other someday, but not before my proper time comes” he clarified. Of all of their multigenerational traditions, the Circumcision represents by far the leading collective celebration party for ethnic Antambahoaka clans. They regard the circumcision as a rite of passage for youngsters to the status of men. The age does not matter, the event takes place only once in every seven years, so, new born babies, teenagers and even some adults are in for it, or eventually for the next one in seven years. Operations are nowadays supervised by registered physicians. They constitute the last stage of the celebration party, and are performed inside the “tragnobe”, understand the royal house of a clan. A Mananjary, the show develops the very same way at every Sambatra. The ritual is strictly regulated. Traditional chants, sacred drums and blows from shelltrumpets give the drill to the performance of the “ritual of the water” collected from the mouth of the nearby river, then the reenactment of a battle with bamboo spears… everything to pay tribute to the stars of the day, namely the boys turning to men, all donning the same clothes and red hats, sitting on the elbows of their proud uncles. Children of the Diaspora and anyone missing the Sambatra by a thread may undergo circumcision as a simple medical procedure. Circumventing and dropping the tradition is, however, completely off the point. Every male must be subjected to the ritual. Inside the Tragnobe, the operator would eventually simulate the act. “An increasing number of parents trends to prefer modern circumcision, namely the US American method, famed across the world for causing minimal bleeding and leading to a faster recovery” declared an emigrated Antambahoaka physician who would have fancied action into the Sambatra. Tradition or not, health and hygiene rules tolerate no excuse.