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Have you ever heard about the “Tamboho gasy” (Malagasy fence)?
If you go out of Antananarivo, you may notice “empty” pieces of land (no construction, no farming) surrounded by brown walls. These walls are the “tamboho gasy”. The new generation people, Malagasy and foreigners, are always amazed seeing these walls knowing that they were made more than a hundred years ago.
Like any other kids, in my childhood, I used to ask a lot of questions on how, why… things were made. I remember, one day, I was in the garden with my father and my eyes were attracted by one side of our fence which was different from the other walls. Then, I started to ask questions. My father explained that it was a “tambohon’ny Ntaolo” (Malagasy Ancestors’ fence) and it was made with soil, water and cow dung. I found it disgusting to use cow dung. I imagined people taking it with their hands and mixing it with the soil. “Yuk!”, I said. But my father explained that we Malagasy people should be proud of these walls because they are really hard and can stand for years and years.
I love my father. When we, his children, were interested in knowing things like this, he always managed to show us more. Like one day, my sister and I were astonished seeing well polished pebbles, he brought us to a riverside and showed where he had collected them. Coming back to our topic, the sunday after I asked questions about “Tamboho gasy”, he brought us to the Queen Palace of Ambohimanga. Wow, there was this high fence! Then, my father explained that there was one more ingredient for this wall. They added eggs to the soil, water and cow dung to make it harder. [I'll add the pic of this wall as soon as I will get there ]
Few weeks ago, I went hiking in Ambohitrabiby and we also saw these Malagasy fences. And guess what? The guide added two more things as “secret” ingredients. Can we believe it or not? I do not know. He said some people also added crushed beef and some other put urine in the mixture.
I heard that some researchers are working on finding the secrets of “Tamboho gasy”. We already have the lists of the ingredients but until now, no one knows their quantity nor the process. Well, someday we will know “how it is exactly made!”
For now, enjoy the pics
The traditional Malagasy fence is composed of horizontal rows. They are of odd numbers; usually three, five or seven.
One more thing to add. A friend asked the following questions on my Facebook page: “I would love to know why they are built. Are they keeping people away from ancestor’s land, so no one goes there? Do you know?” I think, I should put the answer here too. Well, I heard that the square fences were built to protect little neighborhoods and the circle ones were for the cattle in the ancient time. The neighborhoods disappeared but there are important parts of land which are not taken “yet” nowadays because they are in remote areas.