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Malawi – The Warm Heart of Africa – People and Culture

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Malawi is not known as the Warm Heart of Africa for nothing! More than any other country in southern Africa, one is struck by the friendliness and the warmth of the Malawian people.

Whether it is your guide whilst out on safari, the local people you meet at the colourful markets or your waiter, the people really do stand out as a highlight of this country and one is enriched when meeting them.

To really get to know a country and its people, one activity we recommend is to visit local markets, not only those in cities but also rural ones. Local herbs, fruits and vegetables are generally displayed in open baskets; perhaps you may see recycled bottles with home brew and honey.

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You will find local people are very welcoming and want to hear all about you, swap stories and tell you about themselves. If you go for a walk along the road or lakeside, often children will find you, desperate to question you in depth about your life, where you live, how many children you have, your name, family name, did you go to school, they will tell you about their school (African children love going to school and almost all aspire to be teachers/ doctors or nurses!).    

We have often been invited back to their home for a cup of local milky sweet tea, sitting in the best chair – perhaps this may be a traditional Malawi wooden chair made only of two beautifully carved planks sitting at cross angles joined through one central hole, they are incredibly comfortable.   Many of our clients tell us meeting Malawians in their homes and villages was a highlight of their adventure into this lovely country.

There are about 14 million people in Malawi, so it is fairly densely populated in areas. Most people live in traditional villages surrounded by plantations and there are many tribes, the largest being the Chewa, all descend from the Bantu.

Other tribes include the Yao, the Tumbuka in the north, the Maravi and Nyanja. There are Christians  and Muslims but a great number of people also still believe in witch doctors, spirits and shamans, often mixing a little of both in their daily beliefs.

The Malawians like to dance and masks feature prominently in their traditional ceremonies.  

Other places to meet Malawians as they go about their daily activities is along the lake shore as the fishermen head out to the depths of the lake fishing for Chambo. Photographs taken at first light as the sun glistens over the tranquil lake leave wonderful memories.

David Livingstone and missionaries played a strong influence in Malawi, indeed the Livingstonia Mission and its graves can still be seen. The cathedral on remote Likoma Island in Lake Malawi was built by missionaries and joining for a service (or part of it) on Sundays brings the whole island together.

Malawians are known for their wood carving – spoons, animals and ornaments as well as their unique chairs. In more recent times their pottery skills have become well known with several potteries making gorgeous brightly painted crockery and exporting it world wide.

Visit Malawi – the warm heart of Africa.

Images by courtesy of Malawi Tourism

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