09 August 2007

We built this city of tents for you, undead kings

[7/28/07 Dear Augie, On Sunday night, I went to a celebration called the Fitanpoha (pronounced FEET-am-poor), which honors four dead kings from the Sakalava tribe. Actually, my ancestors are probably cursed for my having written that, since people here believe the kings aren’t dead, but live on in a spirit world. You can be cursed for just saying that that’s not the case. Much less for writing it/publishing it online. And much less for doing it on Tuesday, the day of fady, or taboos, when some people in Madagascar virtually don’t do anything for fear of offending an veritable cult of judgmental ancestors, waiting to sneer at their every action. (Snakes are supposedly their messengers, by the way, so maybe it’s to my benefit that snakes can’t read a blog). So anyway, this place was rockin -- kind of like Boneroo or Woodstock, but with a heavier emphasis on spirit possession. A whole city of bars and stores popped up where a dusty field on a hilltop used to be. The throw-up metropolis was held up by raw-cut tree branches and draped in tapestries. Malagasy people like to listen to their music inaudibly loud, and you feel the dissonance and metallic screeching of overblown speakers when you walk down the dirt alleys between the tents. Roulette wheels, made of bicycle wheels and bolts, spin all through the night. People sleep on the ground, waiting for the cleaning of the kings’ bones in the morning. They have a Christmas-level sense of anticipation, which is pretty cool. Hope concert season is on in Oklahoma. – Sutter]

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