This article reconsiders the relationship between ancestors and colonial power through a comparative analysis of the mortuary rituals of two Malagasy peoples, the Betsimisaraka of the east coast and the Karembola of the deep south. In contrast to analyses which emphasise an opposition between ancestors and colonial power, it argues that mortuary rituals construct striking analogies between the two. These analogies rest on similar conceptualisations of power as both enabling and enslaving, and are enacted in contemporary mortuary ritual through the incorporation of colonial goods and labour practices. By playing on similarities and differences between ancestral and colonial power, Betsimisaraka and Karembola mortuary rituals parody and critique mimetically appropriate colonial power, even as their appropriation of colonial symbols endows ritual practices around ancestors with the power to pull against the centralising power of the national sphere. Bakhtin's conception of heteroglossic language provides a useful way of conceptualising the multiple dimensions of ritual practices around ancestors.