Life in Malawi
The official name is The Republic of Malawi and it was formerly a British Protectorate (from 1891). The country, which is landlocked, lies in Southern Africa and has a population of between 11 and 12 million. Malawi is divided into three regions – North, Central and South. The Tumbuka tribe is dominant in the North, Chewa in the Centre and Nyanja in the South. Chichewa is the national language and English is the official language. The majority of the population is rural and traditional village customs are prevalent.
Currency – Kwacha.
Tradition and Culture
The three regions of the country have traceable differences in tradition and culture, (different tribes). For example in the North you find women are inherited as part of their husband’s legacy if he dies (Nthengwa ya uchokolo) and although it is not practiced in the Central region it is practiced in small parts of the South. However, the emergence of AIDS is affecting this tradition.
Chewa, Yao, Tumbuka, Tonga, Sena and others.
PATRILINEAL- Where authority over property and children rests with the father and his people.
MATRILINEAL – Authority over property and children rests with the wife and her people.
CHIKAMWINI – Husband stays at wife’s village or home.
CHITENGWA – Wife stays at husband’s village or home.
NOTE: In Malawi, marriages are mostly arranged by uncles of the two parties.
Previously 46 years for female and 44 for male. However recently in the wake of the AIDS scourge, life expectancy has been put at 40 for both male and female.
WOMEN – Modest. Women normally put on a wrapper (chitenje) which goes from waist down, a blouse and a head gear (smaller wrapper – mpango). However with the influence of modernity and democracy the mode of dress is changing.
MEN – Adopted their dress from British though other ways of dressing are being copied mostly from films especially among the youth.
System of Government
Democracy. However, it has been heavily compromised.
The Government is the largest employer though unemployment is very high. A lot of people graduate but cannot find employment in the profession for which they have trained. Those that can afford to raise the capital may work in business. The average Malawian lives below 1 dollar per day.
Economy / Food
Malawi has limited resources and a largely unskilled workforce. The country relies almost entirely on agriculture. Among the many exports are tea and tobacco. However, there has been a series of poor harvests leading to hunger and famine. A contributing factor has been the rise in the prices of imports like fertilizer. Only a few people can comfortably afford a bag of fertilizer and this has had a negative effect on the farming community.
Staple food is maize. From maize Malawians make flour. The flour is made into hard porridge (Nsima) which is taken normally with relish – Chicken, Meat, Fish, Beans and Vegetables. However, in the North people make flour from cassava and prepare hard porridge (Nsima) called ‘Kondowole’. Others eat rice though most people would only eat this on special occasions (Christmas, New year, Good Friday, Weddings and Initiation ceremonies).
Malawians are normally very healthy people, however, the spread of AIDS has had a huge impact. Another contributing factor is the lack of adequate health facilities and lack of nutritious food which most Malawians can hardly afford. A lot of people resort to consulting witch doctors believing that most ailments are as a result of evil spells cast on people by witches.
Religions practised include Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam, however Christians are in the majority.
Subtropical. Rainfall varies from North to South.
Malawians have many traditional dances and usually dance at special occasions like initiation ceremonies, maize harvest celebrations, engagements, weddings etc.
Most popular sport is football. However other sports are played though on a smaller scale – hockey, golf, lawn tennis, netball, volleyball, basketball. The game of football however is progressing slowly due to lack of proper infrastructure (problem of funds).
Game reserves, Lakeshore and Lakeside resorts, lots of tourist attractions. Only a handful of Malawians can afford them.
Source: Peatry Ntodwa