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Malawi as a country has one of the most unique cultures due to the many tribes that are found in the country. Also known as the Warm Heart of Africa, it is a good place for one to take a trip if you want to learn more about the African culture. There are many villages and tribes that you can visit in Malawi and since the Malawians are welcoming people, it will be easy for you to move from one place to the next while understanding the Malawian culture.
The Malawians are known to be so close when it comes to family and that is why you will find many huts belonging to one family only because they believe that family has to be together in order for them to grow economically. Some of the tribes that are found in the country include the Yao people who live in the North, the Lomwe people, the Tumbuka people, the Ngoni tribe, the Chichewa tribe, Sena people and many more others. Although you will find that are other tribes in the country due to the fact that Arabs that carried out trade at the border of the country and that is why you will find Asians and some Europeans living in the country as well and these also have their own culture that you will want to learn about.
The Tonga tribe
The Tonga people live in Nkhata bay in Northern Malawi. They are mostly Christians but before they were traditionalists where they all believed in the dead and praying with them and they also believed that before someone died, they could take some medicine that would turn them into any animal that they wanted so that they keep on watching over their family. When it comes to divorce it is very okay for a woman to divorce him without giving any relevant reasons whereas if it is the man who wants a divorce, they are given a chance to have a public gathering so that they give their reasons as to why they want to divorce their wife. And you will also find many Tonga men putting on a shirt, a tie with a collar when the back of the shirt is off.
The Yao tribe
The Yao tribe can be found in the areas of Liwonde near the border of Malawi and Mozambique. They speak a language known as Chiyao and they are believed to be the first tribe in Malawi to fight while using arms and also the first one to convert to Islam in the whole country. They became Moslems after the Arabs that they traded with for a long time preached to them and they stopped trading with the traditionalists that first lived in the area.
The Ngoni people
The Ngoni people migrated from South Africa and settled in the southern part of Malawi in the Neno town. They speak a language known as chingoni. The Ngoni people were mostly known for their love for fighting and their love for African made beer and meat which they still love till today. If you want to have a taste of the African beer, this is the right group of people to visit and while visiting them and enjoying their beer, there are stories that will always be told about their unique culture.
The Lomwe people
The Lomwe people live in the Thyolo hills and they are known farmers in that part of Malawi. The Lomwe people speak Chichewa and they believe that the spirits that they believe in reside in the Mulanje Mountain because they used to find mysterious food in the Mountain and they would take it home but it was supposed to be eaten by the one who found it because if you invited another person to eat with you, the food would disappear. They are also known to be people are open minded, talk a lot and are firm believers in spirits and when it comes to traditional dances, the girls are not supposed to cover their breasts but only put on beads.
The Chewa tribe in Malawi
The Chewa people are the first ones who lived in Malawi and they speak a language known as the Chichewa which at the moment is being used by almost everyone who is living in Malawi as a National language. These people normally live in the central part of the country and they also have a few cultural beliefs that they have to follow as a group of people. The locals wear masks during the secret traditional dances, they believe that God is the creator of everything, you are supposed to drop a coin in the gule if you are passing by the road during the big dance ceremonies although you will have to learn more about them if you take a trip to central Malawi to meet the Chewa people.
Visit the Sena tribe
The Sena people are believed to have come from the neighboring Mozambique before settling in the Sothern part of Malawi in the Shire Valley. They were originally called Ashire and up to now they can still be found in the lower Shire Valley and they speak a language that is known as chisena. When you visit the Sena tribe, you will get to learn more about their culture like the legend about how the Sena people used people’s eyes as bait while fishing and that is why people believe that all those blind people that are on the streets of shire had their eyes taken out so that they could catch fish. There are also other activities that are carried out by the Sena people especially the women and this includes dancing and as a tradition as they go about dancing, the girls do it shirtless so you can either join them or enjoy the dance as a spectator.
The Nyakyusa and Ngonde people
These can be found in the Northern part of the country and they migrated with the other Bantu people and they can be found in the Karonga city. They speak a language known as the kyangonde and to get to know about their different cultural practices you have to visit Malawi and take a cultural trip to Karonga.
The Tumbuka people
The Tumbuka people are part of the Bantu and they are known to be the largest group of tribes in Northern Malawi that live in the parts of the Nyika plateau and the Viphya plateau. The witch doctors here always treat people through dance and all the Tumbuka people also believe that there is a direct link between dancing and healing and it is also the most educated tribe in the whole country.
Besides the many villages that you can visit in order to experience the culture of Malawians, there are several museums that tell the story of Malawians and some of these include:
Tour the Museum at Karonga
The Museum at Karonga is located at the border of Malawi and Tanzania and it was built by the Karonga chiefs. The museum was constructed so as to preserve the great culture of the Karonga so that the coming generations can still get to learn about their heritage. During the 19th century, there was slave trade in the country and you can get some stories about slave trade from the tour guides in the museum. The inside of the museum is filled with paintings on the walls that tell you the evolution of the Karonga culture from the early man times to the present times and the way in which they are arranged, it makes it so much easier for even children to easily understand what they are seeing but in case you do not, there are tour guides who can explain more about the paintings.
Explore the Mbona Rain shrines
The Mbona Rain shrines were constructed around the 15th century and the locals believe that they can be healed from the shrines. The locals can be seen going to the shrines and offering sacrifices to the spirits for all the good things that they have received in life and they also believe that whatever you ask for as long as you are around the shrines, it is always granted by the spirits. The Mbona Rain shrines were also made a UNESO heritage site and when you ask the locals about it they will also tell you that if you do not offer any sacrifice at the shrines, the spirits get angry and calamities may befall the whole community where they are located.
Therefore if you want to know more about the culture in Malawi, you can visit the above places and many others that have not been mentioned so that you get the whole feel of the Malawian culture. There are many tour operators that arrange cultural trips to Malawi and therefore book with any of them so that you do not miss out on what Malawians can offer you when it comes to culture.
Exploring the historical and cultural sites in Malawi
Malawi as a landlocked country has a rich history that runs deep and there are many things in the country that tell the history better. Sometimes the best of stories are told through art and that is why most of the historical story in the country is told through the different monuments that are found in the country, museums and UNESCI heritage sites. All these show how far the country has come all the way from the slave trade times, colonial times to the present times. Some of the historical and cultural sites that you can visit in Malawi include:
The Saint Michael and All Angels church
The Saint Michael and all Angels church was constructed by the missionaries that came to Malawi during the 19th century. The main reason as to why it was constructed was because they had no place to say their prayers from and therefore they recruited locals who had no clue about construction and that is how the church came about. The church is located in the second largest town in Malawi and it is one of the best places to visit especially with your family. The amateur way in which the church was constructed adds to the beauty of the place and for all those that want a peaceful place away from the crowd, this is the perfect destination although you will need a tour guide who will help you move around easily while telling you about the wonderful history of the church.
The Chichiri Museum is also known as the museum of Malawi and it is the perfect place for one to learn about both the cultural and historical nature of the Malawian people. When you get to the museum it will feel like stepping back in time during the modern times. There are a lot of things that you will be able to see the numerous things that are kept in the church and all these represent the culture that is carried out in the country and the slave history including how far the country has come into civilization. You will find a tour guide who will take you through the museum and help you understand everything that you will be seeing while at the museum.
The Museum at Karonga
The Museum at Karonga idea was initiated by the Karonga chiefs and it can be found on the shores of Lake Malawi. The museum was constructed so as to preserve the great culture of the Karonga so that the coming generations can still get to learn about their heritage. This is located at the border of Tanzania and Malawi and it was a notorious place for the slave trade that took place during the 19th century. The inside of the museum is filled with paintings on the walls that tell you the evolution of the Karonga culture from the early man times to the present times and the way in which they are arranged, it makes it so much easier for even children to easily understand what they are seeing but in case you do not, there are tour guides who can explain more about the paintings. And after visiting the museum, feel free to explore the famous Lake Malawi and all the activities that can be carried out here like fishing, boat riding and many more others.
The Chilwa wetland
Lake Chilwa is the second largest Lake in Malawi and it was made a UNESCO heritage site. It is located at the border of Mozambique and Malawi and it is greatly known for the large number of bird species that habitate around the Chilwa wetland. It is an extremely good place for all lovers of ecology and those that love birding. It also gives you an insight about how the locals who live in the area survive but before you visit the area, make sure that you go with insect repellents so as to avoid insect bites.
The World War 1 monument
The World War 1 monument is located in Lilongwe town and it is located in the same area where the monument of Kamuzu Banda who was a good freedom fighter in Malawi. The monument was set up to remember all the Malawian locals who went out to help fight during the World War one. There are tour guides who will be there to guide up the monument but you really need to be ready for the stair climbing because there are no elevators. When you get to the top of the monument you will have a clear view of the Lilongwe town and all that it has to offer.
You will also learn a great deal about Kamuzu Banda and all that he did for Malawi so that they could gain independence from the colonialists and the war that led to the independence of Malawi.
The Mbona Rain shrines
The Mbona sacred Rain shrines are found in Malawi and they are believed to have been in existence since the 15th century and they are considered to be sacred by the locals so do not get surprised to find many locals offering sacrifices of thanksgiving for all the good that they have received and they also believe that if you ask for anything as long as you are in the shrine, all your prayers will be answered.
The locals believe that the spirit of Mbona roams around and that is why they keep on offering him gifts so that it is not angered. And due to the fact that the shrines hold a cultural and spiritual meaning to the Malawi people, it was made a UNESCO heritage site and therefore feel free to pass by and get to know more about the Mbona Rain shrines while on your visit to Malawi.
Exploring the Zomba town
Anyone who wants to marvel at colonial buildings takes this trip to Zomba town just to see how the colonialists lived and their unique architecture. Zomba is the capital city of Malawi and it is also where the government of Malawi sits. Most people visit the Zomba town to admire the colonial buildings and also get to mix with the locals as they head to the markets to do their shopping. You also get to visit the old parliamentary building, the university and also learn more about Malawi as a country during the colonial times.
The Malawi slave routes and Livingstone trials
Malawi was one of the African countries where slave trade was carried out in Africa and the routes and the trail tell that slave story to whoever visit the country. This is the one place where the slave story is documented and this is a cherished part of the country that will never be forgotten and the routes were set up so that the future generation does not make the same mistakes that their fore fathers made. And that is why when you visit Malawi, make sure that you head down and see how it went down during the 19th century.
The Chongoni Rock Art
The Chongoni Rock Art is located in the central plateau in Malawi and it is one of the oldest and highest rock area on the whole of the African continent and the rock paints are what you would call ancient and many date the paintings back to the pygmies who used to live in the area. There are about 127 sites around the rock art and all these are used for spiritual purposes by the Chewa women. There are three entrances that lead to the rock art area and these are open to the public every day. A visit to the area will show give you a chance to learn more about the culture of the Malawi people and the only fee that you have to pay is for the tour guide but entrance if free to all people irrelevant of the age.
The Bembeke Cathedral
The Bembeke cathedral is located in the town of Dedza and it is also believed to have been constructed by the missionaries with unique bricks that have withstood time and can still be admired by tourists and not forgetting the paintings that are found inside the church that were painted by a local. Exploring the Bembeke cathedral is free but you will need a tour guide so that you can easily understand the history of the place.
The Chifunda Lundu
The Chifunda Lundu is located in Nsanje in Malawi and it is one of the cultural sites that can be found in Malawi. The place has a lot of history and locals tell all this to the tourists and a visit to the place will give you an insight about how they used to live many years ago. Locals used to go to the Chifunda Lundu to make sacrifices for good luck but these were stopped but you can still visit the place to learn about the history of the Malawi people.