Introduction / History
The Tanôsy people, numbering more than 600 000, live primarily in the Anôsy region in south-west Madagascar, between the Mandrare and the Manantenina rivers. Anôsy means "the island region", and Tanôsy means "the people of Anôsy." Fort Dauphin is the main city in the area, also called Taolañaro or Faradofay.
Around 1845, after the Merina people from central Madagascar conquered Anosy, a large group of Tanôsy emigrated westwards towards the Onilahy river, where they settled on land seized from the Bara and Mahafaly people. The Tanôsy are increasingly infiltrating the land in between these two areas, which is traditionally a Tandroy area.
Their main economy lies in cattle-raising, agriculture, and fishing. They are known to be hard-working, and have often been taken to the Mascareignes to work on the plantations there.
The literacy rate is estimated at less than 30%. Some church schools and NGO's complement the inadequate governmental structures in providing literacy training.
The Tanôsy originally followed a strong caste system, the noble caste being descendants of Zafi-Raminia, a dynasty of the 13th century, who were immigrants from the Middle-East. Their kings held absolute power. In time however the different castes have tended to even out.
Most Tanôsy practise a traditional religion, praying to Zañahary and to their ancestors. There are many different religious and cultural ceremonies and rituals for every area of life, including marriage, birth, healing, spirit (tromba) possession and death. Famorana, the circumcision ceremony, is held every 7 years.
Today it is estimated that about 40 percent of the Tanôsy practice Christianity, mostly Roman Catholic and Lutheran. There seems to be a historic resistance to what is seen as a Merina religion, as the Merina conquered and dominated the region in the 19th century.
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