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Zafimaniry woman.jpg
Zafimaniry woman drying rice
Total population
(c. 15,000)
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups
Betsileo; other Malagasy groups; Austronesian peoples

The Zafimaniry are a sub-group of the Betsileo ethnic group of Madagascar. They live in the forested mountains of the southern central highlands southeast of Ambositra, between the neighboring Betsileo and Tanala peoples. There are approximately 100 Zafimaniry villages, which support a population of approximately 15,000[1] The Zafimaniry speak a dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group which comes from the Barito languages, that are spoken in southern Borneo.

They are known for their woodcarving knowledge and art, which was added in 2003 to UNESCO's list of the world's Intangible Cultural Heritage. This style of woodworking was once common throughout Madagascar but has decreased because of deforestation.[2] Their art is considered by historians to provide insight into the applied arts of the past in Madagascar.[1]


Distribution of Malagasy ethnic groups. Zafimaniry are classified as Betsileo.

In the early 19th century, queen Ranavalona I started a conscription,[3] prompting a number of highland people to flee in the mountains, thus forming the Zafimaniry. The homes they build are made of plant materials and wood without use of nails, and can be dismantled for transportation.[4]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Video about the Zafimaniry woodworkers


  1. ^ a b Bradt & Austin 2007, p. 29.
  2. ^ "The Woodcrafting Knowledge of the Zafimaniry". UNESCO. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  3. ^ "Faliarivo" (in French). Routard. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Bradt & Austin 2007, p. 30.


  • Bradt, Hilary; Austin, Daniel (2007). Madagascar (9th ed.). Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press Inc. pp. 113–115. ISBN 1-84162-197-8.