The history of science and technology in Africa has received little attention compared to other regions of the world, despite notable developments in various fields. African people have been observing the stars and planets since ancient times. For centuries, Africans have searched the heavens for meaning, order and understanding of their place as a people on earth.
Astronomy was and is still practised in parts of Africa to measure time, seasons, cycles, direction and naming rites. Culturally embedded astronomical knowledge and observation were used to inform social forms, ideologies and behaviours in society.
The Antemoro people are an ethnic group in Madagascar, an island nation off the coast of Africa that were widely reputed in the pre-colonial period for their astrologers, who could predict the future based on lunar phases and astrological charts. Until the fall of the Antemoro kingdom in the late 19th century, the inhabitants were revered for their knowledge of astrology. This art by the Antemoro people of Madagascar was largely attributed to their knowledge of a writing skill known as “sorabe”. The “sorabe” texts that provided instructions for teaching astrology and documented historical accounts of their customs and traditions
Due to this ability to read stars and predict future occurrences, the services of Antemoro astrologers, who were traditionally referred to as “ombiasy,” were in high demand in many localities in Madagascar, according to 101last tribes.com.
There came a period where almost every king had an ombiasy in his court who served as an adviser. It also became a pattern where every village in Madagascar had an ombiasy stationed in the locality to offer insights and understanding before major decisions were taken.
It became a culture where Antemoro astrologers would travel out of their homeland for six months to a year to consult on behalf of people who were in need of good fortunes for their harvest or marriage or wanted to resolve a misfortune that had befallen them.
This periodic exodus of the ombiasy created a network of spiritual advisers across the Madagascar region. Today, the Antemoro paper, which is decorated with fresh flowers and traditionally used to record secret knowledge using sorabe, has become a source of income for many inhabitants who either sell it to tourists or export it to international markets.
The Antemoro have a population of 500,000 and are situated on the southeastern coast of Madagascar between Manakara and Farafangana. When they settled in Madagascar, they converted to Islam. They soon adopted the traditional religion but many still upheld the tenets of the Islamic religion by refraining from eating pork.
Their mainstay is farming, producing rice and coffee. They also mine salt. Those with knowledge of the sorabe manufacture charms and practice divinity. The kingdom witnessed a decline following the emergence of the Europeans in Madagascar and their subsequent colonial exploitation. The Antemoro are also known for their expertise in other traditional arts and crafts, including weaving, carving, and the production of perfumes and essential oils. These skills are passed down through the generations and are an important part of Antemoro culture and identity
In the 19th and 20th centuries, African tribes were subjected to colonization and exploitation by European powers, which led to the loss of much of their traditional land and cultural practices. This period of colonization had a profound impact on the Antemoro people, and many of their cultural traditions and practices were lost or suppressed.
Despite these challenges, the Antemoro remain a vibrant and resilient community, with a strong sense of cultural identity and a deep connection to their traditions and way of life. Their astrological traditions, in particular, continue to thrive and are an important part of their cultural heritage.