MAHAJANGA, Madagascar - An African tribe is convinced that Barbra
Streisand's nose holds special powers -- and prays to it daily for rain,
fertile fields, protection, good luck, and sexual potency.
"The Mahafaly tribe of Southern Madagascar has worshipped Streisand's nose
for the past 25 years," asserts British ethnographer Phillip Branwell, 58.
"The nose is considered to be most holy by the tribe. They build statues in
the nose's image, and wear little Stresand noses around their necks on
The typical Mahafaly nose is broad and flat, nearly the opposite of "Funny
Girl's sausage-like shnozz. Tribeswoman Abba Madjanka, 48, confides, "When
I first saw Barbra Streisand's nose, I was in awe. A feeling of amazement
and wonder came over me. I nearly fainted. Then my eyes filled with tears.
I realized I was in the presence of something very powerful and very
Members of the tribe are less impressed with Streisand's other
accomplishments. Asked if they are aware of her extraordinary achievements
as a singer, actress, composer, producer, and director, one of the
tribesmen, Yazid Ouahib, 41, replies, "We know she is famous, but we feel
that her power and our good fortune comes directly from her nose."
The worshipping of Yentl's nose continues to grow bigger every day. In the
quiet village of Maroantsetra, there is even a church featuring an elaborate
24-foot high Streisand head. Both before and after services, Streisand's
hit, "People," blares through the countryside. At night, lights illuminate
its nose, which can be seen from any point in the village. Even the
smallest of children point toward the lights and reverently mouth the name,
"Barbra," over and over again, as though mesmerized.
The Mahafaly's most popular villager, Toussaint Raharison, 28, captivates
listeners with continual retellings of his experience seeing Streisand in
her 1994 comeback concert in America. Though it happened over seven years
ago, when he was a student, Raharison tells it to large gatherings of
villagers, as though it happened yesterday. But the talk is not of her
voice or her songs or her stage presence. "Her nose was everything I
thought it would be," Raharison raves. "It was magnificent. Just being so
close to it, I felt bathed in a golden glow. Nothing since then has been
Some may find it a bit unusual to bow before a huge honker. But Raharison
says the tribe feels it is their divine calling to follow the nose. He
notes, "We did not pick the nose. The nose picked us."
Branwell adds that this sort of celebrity body part worship is not all that
unusual among native tribal societies. "The Bushmen of Botswana's Kalahari
Desert have prayed to Oprah Winfrey's belly for decades. The Berbers of
Morocco's Atlas Mountains consider George Hamilton's tan as sacred. And the
Pygmies of Equatorial Africa have long worshipped Salma Hayek's breasts."
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