The Sakalava are semi-nomadic pastoralists ethnic group of Madagascar who also grow some rice, numbering approximately 1.5 million in population. Their name means “people of the long valleys.” They occupy the Western edge of the island from Toliara in the south to Sambirano in the north. They are related to the Antakarana people, and have a sub-tribe called Vezo and Antaisaka. The island of Antsiranana is a sacred island where their ancestors live, and they believe that any Merina (highland people) who goes there will die.
The Sakalava denominate a number of smaller ethnic groups that once comprised an ancient empire, rather than an ethnic group in its own right. The Sakalava speak several dialects of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in southern Borneo. They were known for their sea-faring skills, and were the first to receive firearms from Europeans in exchange for cattle and slaves. They are popular with their traditional facial painting beautification.
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah