What do Indonesia and the African island of Madagascar have in common? The answer, observed in similarities in root language, is a shared ancestral people.
I first read that there was a connection between these two unlikely nations from the book Guns, Germs, and Steel. There, Jared Diamond wrote that Austronesian people from Kalimantan (Borneo), who spoke an early form of Indonesian-Malay known as Austronesian, voyaged across the Indian Ocean, settled in Madagascar, and were already established by the time Europeans visited in 1500 . Present-day research places their arrival around the year 650 .
This seemed very shocking to me before I saw a map of the hypothesized extent of the Austronesian migration. It seems these folks were quite the sailors!
Of course, the story isn’t simple. Madagascar has been influenced by it’s far closer neighbors in Africa as well as European settlers throughout history. Still, no other Austronesian people live within thousands of miles of Madagascar, so it’s a fascinating testament to their broad expanse.
Although the author of the following ‘ethnomusicologist’ view of the Indonesia-Madagascar connection admits that musical instruments are not conclusive—they could be African, Indonesian, or neither—Norma McLeod’s 1977 “Musical Instruments and History in Madagascar” offers a substantial look into the phenomena. She also points to the presence of carved wooden monoliths, flat facing stones of tombs, outrigger vessels, sewn boats, and tapa cloth as enhancements to evidence for Austronesian origins of people living in Madagascar .
Keeping up with our vocabulary for the day, let’s look at some Indonesian-origin artifacts that may help reveal their ancestor’s ancient travels, although not necessarily found in Madagascar.
Cadik /cha·dik/ n. Bamboo or wood outrigger-style canoe, also known as a jukung.
Candi /chan·di/ n. Temple, usually made of stone. The map of Indonesia is dotted with them.
Patung /pa·tung/ n. Statues, both modern and ancient, traditionally either of people or imitating the forms of animals. Can be made of stone, wood, and so on.
 Diamond, Jared (1999), Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Pg 380-381. New York:Norton
 McLeod, N (1977), Musical Instruments and History in Madagascar. Essays for a Humanist: An Offering to Kalus Wachsman. New York: The Town House Press. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=glUjCHaOwyIC&oi=fnd&pg=PA189&dq=musical+instruments+of+madagascar+norma+mcleod&ots=TtV1edu-0A&sig=w09XjPAQdzef0LocLgFsTUe2flU