Chewa people

Last updated

Chewa
Chewa mask - Malawi.jpg
Late 20th-century wood, paint, feathers, metal and wool mask from the Chewa people in Malawi in the British Museum
Total population
12 million
Regions with significant populations
Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique
Languages
Chewa, English, Portuguese
Religion
Christianity, traditional Chewa religion, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Tumbuka, Tonga, Kunda, Sena, Nyungwe
PersonMChewa
PeopleAChewa
Language Chichewa
CountryUchewa

The Chewa (or AChewa) are a Bantu ethnic group native to central and southern Africa and the largest ethnic group in Malawi. The Chewa are closely related to people in surrounding regions such as the Tumbuka and Nsenga. They are historically also related to the Bemba, with whom they share a similar origin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As with the Nsenga and Tumbuka, a small part of Chewa territory came under the influence of the Ngoni, who were of Zulu or Natal/Transvaal origin. An alternative name, often used interchangeably with Chewa, is Nyanja. Their language is called Chichewa. Internationally, the Chewa are mainly known for their masks and their secret societies, called Nyau, as well as their agricultural techniques.

Contents

The Chewa (like the Nyanja, Tumbuka, Senga, Nsenga, Mang'anja) are a remnant of the Maravi (Malawi) people or empire. [1]

There are two large Chewa clans, the Phiri and the Banda, [2] with a population of 1.5 million people. [3] The Phiri are associated with the kings and aristocracy, the Banda with healers and mystics.

History

Oral records of the Chewa may be interpreted to refer to origins in Malambo, a region in the Luba area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from where they emigrated into northern Zambia, and then south and east into the highlands of Malawi. This settlement occurred sometime before the end of the first millennium. After conquering land from other Bantu peoples, they regrouped at Choma, a place associated with a mountain in northern Malawi, and the plateau of northeastern Zambia.[ citation needed ]

This is one of a number of different interpretations of the early oral records of the Chewa. The first Chewa kingdom was established some time before or after 1480, and by the 16th century there were two systems of government, one maintained by the Banda clan at Mankhamba (near Nthakataka), and the other by the Phiri clan at Manthimba. The Phiri are associated with the Malawian mountain Kaphirintiwa.[ citation needed ]

By the 17th century, when the 'Malawi' state had been unified, the Portuguese had made some contact with the Chewa. Although the Portuguese did not reach the heartland of the chiefdom, there are well-documented records of contacts between 1608 and 1667. By 1750, several 'Malawi' dynasties had consolidated their positions in different parts of central Malawi; however the Chewa, had managed to distinguish themselves from their neighbours through language, by having special tattoo marks (mphini), and by the possession of a religious system based on the nyau secret societies.

Culture

Large ovoid vessel made by a Chewa woman in National Museum of African Art Chewa jar.jpg
Large ovoid vessel made by a Chewa woman in National Museum of African Art

Women have a special place in Chewa society and belief. They are recognized as reproducers of the lineage (Bele), which is an extended family of people related to the same ancestor. As a matrilineal society, property and land rights are inherited through the mother. Bele means "descended from the same breast". Children of the same mother or female (Lubele la achite) make up a family of dependents or Mbumba. Elder brothers of the mothers are called Nkhoswe, are the guardians of the lineage, and are mentors to their sisters' sons.

When crops are sold, income from the sale belongs to the woman of the house. [3]

The village was led by a headman (Mfumu), a position to which every villager of good character could aspire. Village headmen and headwomen were subordinate to regional chiefs (Mwini Dziko), who were themselves subordinate to Paramount Chiefs. Subordination meant the regular payment of tribute, as well as readiness to supply men in time of war.

Notable individuals

Related Research Articles

The History of Malawi covers the area of present-day Malawi. The region was once part of the Maravi Empire. In colonial times, the territory was ruled by the British, under whose control it was known first as British Central Africa and later Nyasaland. It became part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The country achieved full independence, as Malawi, in 1964. After independence, Malawi was ruled as a one-party state under Hastings Banda until 1994.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Demographics of Malawi</span>

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Malawi, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

The history of Zambia experienced many stages from colonization to independence from Britain on October 24, 1964. Northern Rhodesia became a British sphere of influence in the present-day region of Zambia in 1888, and was officially proclaimed a British protectorate in 1924. After many years of suggested mergers, Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland were merged into the British Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chewa language</span> Bantu language of Southern and East Africa

Chewa is a Bantu language spoken in much of Southern, Southeast and East Africa, namely the countries of Malawi, where it is an official language, and Mozambique and Zambia. The noun class prefix chi- is used for languages, so the language is usually called Chichewa and Chinyanja. In Malawi, the name was officially changed from Chinyanja to Chichewa in 1968 at the insistence of President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, and this is still the name most commonly used in Malawi today. In Zambia, the language is generally known as Nyanja or Cinyanja/Chinyanja '(language) of the lake'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tumbuka people</span> Ethnic group in Central South-East Africa

The Tumbuka is an ethnic group found in Northern Malawi, Eastern Zambia and Southern Tanzania. Tumbuka is classified as a part of the Bantu language family, and with origins in a geographic region between the Dwangwa River to the south, the North Rukuru River to the north, Lake Malawi to the east, and the Luangwa River. They are found in the valleys near the rivers, lake as well as the highlands of Nyika Plateau, where they are frequently referred to as Henga although this is strictly speaking the name of a subdivision.

The Tumbuka language is a Bantu language which is spoken in the Northern Region of Malawi and Zambia in the districts of Lundazi, Lumezi, and Chasefu. It is also known as Chitumbuka or Citumbuka — the chi- prefix in front of Tumbuka means "in the manner of", and is understood in this case to mean "the language of the Tumbuka people". Tumbuka belongs to the same language group as Chewa and Sena.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maravi</span> Former kingdom which straddled the current borders of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia

Maravi was a kingdom which straddled the current borders of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, in the 16th century. The present-day name "Maláŵi" is said to derive from the Chewa word "malaŵí", which means "flames".

The Nsenga, not to be confused with the Senga, are a Bantu ethnic tribe of Zambia and Mozambique. In Zambia, they are found in two districts of Eastern province namely Nyimba and Petauke. They are also dialects with the Nsenga Luzi of the Luangwa valley in Chief Nyalugwe, Mboloma and Lwembe and the Chikunda of Luangwa Boma (Feira). Their Senior Chief is Kalindawalo M'ndikula who resides in Merwe 10 kilometers from Petauke Boma. His subjects include Chief Mwape, Nyamphande, Nyanje, Mumbi, Sandwe, Nyalugwe, Ndake, Lwembe and Mwanjaw'anthu. They are well known for their culture and artwork which includes bead work and basketry. They also grow groundnuts, maize, millet and sorghum for consumption and cotton (Thonje) as cash crop, and are popular for their Mbewa (Mice), a practice which they are often teased for. The Nsenga language spoken by people of this tribe has been adopted by many groups in Zambia and diluted to Zambia’s widely spoken language Chinyanja.

Nkhata Bay is a district in the Northern Region of Malawi. The capital is Nkhata Bay. The district covers an area of 4,071 km.² and has a population of 164,761.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bemba people</span> Ethnic group in Central Africa

The Bemba belong to a large group of Bantu peoples mainly in the Northern, Luapula, Muchinga, and the northern Central Province of Zambia. The Bemba entered modern-day Zambia by crossing the Luapula River. One group first came to Zambia by 1940 from Kola. A few other ethnic groups in the Northern and Luapula of Zambia speak languages that are similar to Bemba but do not share a similar origin. The Bemba people are not indigenous to the Copperbelt Province, having reached there only in the 1970s due to employment opportunities in copper mining.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Languages of Zambia</span> Dialects of the southern African country

Zambia has several major indigenous languages, all members of the Bantu family, as well as Khwedam, Zambian Sign Language, several immigrant languages and the pidgins Settla and Fanagalo. English is the official language and the major language of business and education.

The Nguni people are a Bantu ethnic group from South Africa, with off-shoots in neighbouring countries in Southern Africa. Swazi people live in both South Africa and Eswatini, while Northern Ndebele people live in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The Senga are an ethnic tribe of Zambia, distinct from the Nsenga.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nyau</span> Secret society of the Chewa people

Nyau is a secret society of the Chewa, an ethnic group of the Bantu peoples from Central and Southern Africa. The Nyau society consists of initiated members of the Chewa and Nyanja people, forming the cosmology or indigenous religion of the people. Initiations are separate for men and for women, with different knowledge learned and with different ritual roles in the society according to gender and seniority. Only initiates are considered to be mature and members of the Nyau.

The Mwangwego script is an abugida writing system developed for Malawian languages and other African Bantu languages by linguist Nolence Mwangwego in 1977. It is one of several indigenous scripts invented for local language communities in Africa.

Ngoni is a Bantu language of Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. There is a 'hard break' across the Tanzanian–Mozambican border, with marginal mutual intelligibility. It is one of several languages of the Ngoni people, who descend from the Nguni people of southern Africa, and the language is a member of the Nguni subgroup, with the variety spoken in Malawi sometimes referred to as a dialect of Zulu. Other languages spoken by the Ngoni may also be referred to as "Chingoni"; many Ngoni in Malawi, for instance, speak Chewa, and other Ngoni speak Tumbuka or Nsenga.

Leroy Vail whose birth name was Hazen Leroy Vail was an American specialist in African studies and educator who specialized in the history and linguistics of Central Africa and later extended his interests to Southern Africa. He taught in universities in Malawi, Zambia and the United States and his research in the first two countries inclined him toward the view that Central Africa underwent a period of underdevelopment that began in the mid-19th century and accelerated under colonial rule. After his return to the United States, he cooperated with Landeg White on studies of colonial Mozambique and on the value of African poetry and songs as a source of oral history.

Isabel Apawo Phiri is a Malawian theologian known for her work in gender justice, HIV/AIDS, and African theology. She has been a Deputy Secretary for the World Council of Churches since 2012.

References

  1. "Chewa | Encyclopedia.com". encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  2. Phiri, Isabel Apawo (2007). Women, Presbyterianism and Patriarchy. Religious Experience of Chewa Women in Central Malawi. African Books Collective. pp. 23–26.
  3. 1 2 Gough, Amy (2004). "The Chewa". The Peoples of The World Foundation. Retrieved 18 October 2010.