"Though sugar canes are the sweetest, we must acknowledge that bananas are sweet as well". A Malagasy proverb to express the value of two things, that one is no different nor lesser compare to the other.
In Madagascar almost everything has been analyzed and become part of the country's deepest culture. The ancient Malagasy people known as "Ntaolo" were good thinkers and philosophers. They are often being referred to as "the wise". Out of observing nature, good lessons were taken and taught throughout generations.
One of the best thinking is about bananas. Banana is among the most valuable plant in the culture of the country. It symbolizes the human life in general. Its first appearance in a cultural life of a Malagasy, is during the period of "Fanalana volon-jaza" or for "baby's hair cut", then when a young boy is circumcised.
"Maty mamela solofa tahaka ny akondro", which is interpreted as "May you have children before you die" or "have posterity before you pass through the veil", that is a blessing given to a circumcised young boy.
Just like a banana tree, before it dies, it will always leave a new baby tree at its root, and that baby tree will become the next banana tree, and it will not die before another baby banana tree is rising up. Good think and a wonderful blessing from the "Ntaolo Malagasy."
In circumcision, a banana tree is one of the symbolic materials used to constitute what is called the "Fototra" or a foundation. The foundation of every blessing that will be given to the young boy. In this "Fototra", the banana is like the chef corner stone. After the circumcision, it will be planted bearing the boy's name, symbolizing him and his posterity.
Banana plays many important roles in the day to day of the ancient Malagasy. It was used to make various kind of food. Its leaves were used as plates or wraps. When there was a cultural event like "Fanalana Volon-jaza" or baby's hair cut; its leaves were [are] used to serve the food including meat and honey.
During a funeral, they are also used as plates. This practice is still widely found in many of the areas within Madagascar. Last time I saw that practice was in Andapa, a town within the SAVA region in the north of country.
Banana tree is also very useful to treat certain diseases like blood presser, injuries or other skin issues. In every big cities in the world, bananas come to our home after passing through some large chain of production. People living in those cities often learn about banana through books and TVs or the internet.
But That's not really the case for Madagascar. Banana trees can still be found in most of its cities and they are just as sweet as sugar canes.
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