Professionalism to nurture Fihavanana ? Here we are!

Just learnt this morning about the death of a relative (an aunt of mine’s mother).

Meaning that, given our closeness, I’ll join the family bunch to present our condelences to my aunt’s family.

Equally meaning that I will surely attend the funeral mass and probably the burial.

Finally, meaning that it would be the third time in less than a week that I’m supposed to, at least, present condolences. I skipped the first condolences presentation (to another aunt’s family) to be able to honor my duty to another acquaintance’s family the day after. This third time, I’ll attend each part of the funerals but the final one: the burial.

Social duties are ingredient of Malagasy society as they are cement of our dearly cherished “fihavanana“. I’d define fihavanana as a quality obtained via the broadening of family ties network. It is maintained through practices as simple as schmoozing (when you drop a visit to close relatives or -rarer and rarer- the grand-aunt of your Dad…) to more formal moves. There are codes to observe for ceremonies such as wedding’s, funeral’s, condolences presentation, famadihana, greetings presentation for a birth, circumcision celebrations… I’d add that fihavanana is akin to friendship minus the formal aspect of some duties and the fact that one chooses one’s friends, not one’s relatives. [Btw, I think I’m not wrong assuming that Fihavanana is the biggest personal network for us, Malagasy folks. Am I ?]

Simply put, those duties are time and organization skills demanding, especially within this westernizing and more and more individualist society. When announced by tens- within a month-, those news which require your attending, your partaking, are eventually screened. It is where fihavanana can lend a hand. It allows a family to divide itself in two or three groups to attend, say, three ceremonies one given Saturday: the wedding ceremony of a cousin from Dad part, another one of a seasoned-bachelor-cum-uncle from Mum side and the funerals of this grand-aunt from so and so side. Fihavanana is both to be nurtured and a great element which allows a family to arrange social duties schedules. Who else would bother represent you and your family (as you’re supposed to attend both three ceremonies given the very Fihavanana that exists between you and each of those families) but your havana (close relatives such as Mom, Dad, siblings, grand-parents, uncles and aunts and their kids- the cousins) ?

Living in a westernized continent, I used to envy those fabulous wedding parties. Their tales (and the gossips!) could make up for the bulk of some mails and phone calls. Also, I used to feel mysef relieved from the burden of funerals attendings (and generally, those gestures related to sad news). Now living within my Ilienne society, I just try to be as organized and available as possible. They- condolences presentations, funerals, wedding and other ceremonies attendings- are amongst those social mechanisms we are used to and try to be involved in as much as possible. It’s plain duty- to support relatives in need and to celebrate with the happy ones-, which allows you, though, to connect with rarely and rarely seen relatives. Then, once in a while, I happen to be excited by the news of a favourite and close cousin’s wedding. Whoa ! A huge party expected (and sometimes planned) !

That’s life in nowadays Malagasy society. More and more of those social duties which go along with more demanding professional and private lives !

Sad ? No! Just modern and screaming for more professionnalism (“flexibility, availability and organizational skills” is the least you could replace this big big world by). And I’d especially like it when, as we have grown up, my cousins and I could solely represent the whole family to others, leaving the elderly alone. But first, we have to convince our zoky (the eldest male of our family’s third generation- us, all cousins) to learn the speech delivering art (fitenenana) as he would then become our official spokeperson… but that’s another story. What can I say ? Roaming the world is not a Fihavanana-friendly activity. lol


2 Responses to “Professionalism to nurture Fihavanana ? Here we are!”

  1. I’m sorry for your loss.
    I read really fast (I’m sorry!). I wanted to say I like your definition of fihavanana. I always thought it was in a way “the harmonious cohesion that keeps society together” (or something like that…). Yours makes more sense.
    I find that there are periods when there are several successive events like that. It’s like it’s rarely one out of nowhere. I still struggle to remember what to say in Malagasy… I sometimes instinctively blurt out “mes condoléances” because of it!

  2. Thank you! Don’t be sorry!

    My definition of fihavanana makes more sense ? It’s because I realized that upon hearing/reading such news that require my partake in some social move, I used to make a mental list of probable attendees. Yesterday, I started thinking “then, I’ll meet up with A, I’ll meet up with B. Who else would I see there ?”. I started assuming that fihavanana was probably the cement of our biggest personal network. So, I came up with this definition.

    Lucky me, I’m a woman and most of my male cousins are older than I am. Fortuntely, the basic sentences to say are simple and remain the same. But of course, one has to learn them. Also, a mistake in fitenenana could be easily forgiven if it’s for joyful events. If it’s for condolences, it’s more complicated and one would better not mess around.

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