Makoa people

Makoa

Makoa / Masombika

The Makoa (or Masombika) are an ethnic group in Madagascar descended from slaves traded through the major slave trading ports of northern Mozambique in an area mainly populated by the Makua people. They are among the last African diaspora communities in the world to issue from the slave trade. They are sometimes classified as a subgroup of the fishing peoples known as the Vezo (who are themselves a subset of the Sakalava people), although the Makoa maintain a distinct identity, one reinforced by their larger physical stature and historic employment as police officers by the French colonial administration.

 

Language

The Makoa speak a dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in southern Borneo. Historically they spoke Emakhuwa, the language spoken in northern Mozambique; church hymns and portions of the Bible were translated to Emakhuwa by Makoa Lutheran converts.

There are several known Emakhuwa language documents written by Makoa in Madagascar that were carefully preserved by family and community members. Today, no living Makoa in Madagascar continue to speak this language as their mother tongue.

 

Ethnic identity

The Makoa (called Masombika in the central highlands around the capital of Antananarivo) are an ethnic group in Madagascar descended from slaves traded through the major slave trading ports of northern Mozambique in an area mainly populated by the Makua people. They are one of the latest African diaspora groups in the world to be created as a result of the slave trade. They are sometimes classified as a subgroup of the fishing peoples known as the Vezo (who are themselves a subset of the Sakalava people), although the Makoa maintain a distinct identity, one reinforced by their larger physical stature and historic employment as police officers by the French colonial administration. The term Makoa is used today in Madagascar to refer not only to those who are believed descendants of Makua slaves, but also those who are very dark skinned, and those who are physically robust and powerful.

 

Society

Within Makoa society, a three level caste system emerged to replicate that predominant in larger Malagasy society. A slave master would typically designate a leader of the Makoa, who took the title ampanjaka (king), as well as higher status slaves and lower status ones.

 

Dance and music

The rap group Makoa claims to valorize an "Afro-Malagasy" identity associated with the Makoa people. Although the members of the group are not themselves Makoa by ethnicity, the popularity of the group and its inclusive message has contributed to rehabilitating the image of the Makoa in the popular imagination.

 

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