Home Institution

Barnard College

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Madagascar: National Identity and Social Change


At the outset of my project, I intended to collect information from both storytellers and story listeners on the subject of angano or tafasiry, Malagasy verbal tales, so as to examine the state of this ancient aspect of daily life in the modern Malagasy world. An elder, such as a grandparent or parent, usually tells the tafasiry in Malagasy to the children of the family, historically in front of the fire while waiting for dinner. Before formal schools were instituted, tafasiry were used as a form of education to teach children morals, information they might need for future experiences, and how to use their imagination. Stepping into my research, I was aware that tafasiry were said to be slowly disappearing from everyday life, and I examined both the reasons for this disappearance and the methods, if any, that were currently being used to slow or stop it. Commonly cited reasons for the disappearance were the introduction of technology such as television and the Internet, busier work schedules for parents and children, and changing family structures. I also examined whether or not tafasiry were commonly being translated into forms other than traditional oral tales such as books, television, radio, or theatre and the relative effectiveness of these forms in preserving both the specifics and the general essence of the tafasiry. I found that these forms were being used to a certain extent, but that the alteration in form often changed the effectiveness of the tafasiry in achieving its goals and its essence as a verbal practice. I found, however, that theatre was an underutilized form for the preservation of tafasiry with an enormous amount of potential for relative accuracy in conserving the fundamental aspects of tafasiry such as orality, changeability, and instigation of imagination that are often lost or diminished when converted to other forms such as books. Using the tafasiry I had heard from the storytellers I interviewed, I wrote a play using these stories in an attempt to examine whether playwriting could be an effective form of conserving tafasiry. I made many alterations to the tafasiry, however, such as selecting only certain stories to convey, setting them in the modern context, translating them into French, and using only parts of the stories. After writing the play, I discussed the effectiveness of both my specific play and the play format in general in sustaining Malagasy tafasiry. Within Malagasy culture, the project has great potential to aid in the safeguarding of an oral culture that is currently at risk of completely changing or disappearing forever. If a play has the potential to maintain, at least relatively, these few tafasiry I have encountered, plays could be used to maintain so many more stories and the entire oral education system that has passed down a set of knowledge from the ancestors for many hundreds of years and has played such an important part in Malagasy history and culture.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Sociology of Culture | Theatre and Performance Studies


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