25 April 2018

Malawi: Meet the Chewa People of Malawi

Photo: The Guardian
Nyau dancers.

With over 1.5 million of the 18.9 million population in Malawi and over 11 million scattered abroad, the Chewa people pride themselves on being the largest indigenous group in Malawi. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that their language, Chichewa, has been adopted by the Malawians as the official language.

Their ancestry is traced to Nyanja of the Bantu tribe. They do not live in isolation as they bear a close relationship with their neighbours, the Tumbuka and Nsenga tribe.

With their history dating back to the first century, AD, their traditions remain with them. Their secret society, Nyau, is known for their masks. Their love for masks knows no bounds as they present organised dances (Gulewamkulu) during the Nyau secret society festival.

The tribe gives prominence to women. A large part of this is to her ability to produce children in the lineage (Bele). Because of this, she is entitled to property and lands. Children from the same woman (Lubele la achite) are called the Mbumba and are automatically dependents.

The right to run for office (head of the village) is equal. The Mfumus as they are called, reports to a regional chief (the Mwini Dziko).

A spiritual set of people, they believe that their god, Chiuta, called into being everything on earth on the Kapirintiwa mountain during a thunderstorm. The Chuwa people believe that spirits of men and animals come in contact with the living. They are also of the belief that there is a deep spiritual and physical connection between the two and that they have a relationship in which both can communicate.

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