‘We wrap the bodies and dance with the corpses while they decompose’

‘We wrap the bodies and dance with the corpses while they decompose’
Image: CNN video screen grab

In the rolling hills of Madagascar’s central highlands, the Merina tribe exhumes the remains of their ancestors for a celebration-cum-family reunion.

In this sacred ritual, which occurs every five to seven years, a number of deceased relatives are removed from an ancestral crypt. Living family members carefully peel the burial garments off the corpses and wrap them in fresh silk shrouds.

The festivities begin and guests drink, converse, and dance with their forebears.

“We wrap the bodies and dance with the corpses while they decompose,” says anthropologist Dr Miora Mamphionona.

Just before the sun sets, the bodies are carefully returned to the tomb and turned upside down. The crypt is then closed for the next five to seven years.

Famidihana, or ‘the turning of the bones’, is a sacred ritual practiced by some ethnic groups in Madagascar.

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