Chewa TribeThis is a featured page

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By: Chelsea Gullion & Suzanne Palmer

Malawi Map

History of the Chewa People

The Chewa Tribe did not originate from Malawi where they are currently located (see map to left) they migrated there from Zaire back in the year 1480. The first documented contact with the tribe was made by Portuguese explorers between the years of 1608 and 1667. (1) During the 1700's the area of Malawi became more inhabited by other tribes but the Chewa remained unagressive and continued to have peaceful relationships with those around them. Which allowed them to keep their culture alive and population high. This is seen in the way that the Chewa have had immense influence that this culture had, such as Chichewa (the language of the Chewa people) being the national language of Malawi. (2) During the 19th century the Chewa, along with other indigenous tribes, of the area were pressured by the missionaries and many of the Chewa were converted from their sorcery cults. The stipulations of the missions were that they cut all their ties with their culture including kin and were even burried in seperate graveyards. (3)

Chewa Tribe Member
The Chewa have remained a culture unlike many in Africa. Even though they have had contact with many different peoples and governments they have managed to keep their customs and traditions alive and kicking. This includes, but isn't limited to, activities of daily life, religion, language and their location. (1) As the Malawian culture develops so does the influence of the Chewa. Due to the national use of the language and the large population of the Chewa they influence many aspects of life; such as
"education systems, healthcare, publications, governing boards, and radio broadcasts." (2) As far as development goes, the Chewa stay the same in their traditions and customs keeping their culture alive, while the Malawi culture seems to adapt around them.

Chewa Dance
Chewa Influence
The Chewa people have influenced many things in Malawi a few of them are Religion, Dance, and Peacefulness.
The Chewa believe all living things were created by their God, on the mountain of Kapirintiwa, which borders Malawi and Mazambique, during a thunderstorm. The Chewa believe animal spirits coexist with man on our living world and contact them through the dance of “Nyau”, or secret stories. The dance is an incredibly important part of culture for the Chewa. Other societies , such as the
Nyauparticipate in dances like those in the Chewa societies. These large, formally organized dance ceremonies are performed to admire physical abilities (which become adept during these rituals) of the individuals. (4) These rituals also consist of the Chewadressing as animals and trees, and thus, are considered to be in ‘animal state’ and are not to be approached. The peaceful lifestyle the Chewa people live out on a daily basis was the reason many people of Malawi, particularly the Ngoni, adapted such a peaceful way of life. The Ngoni was traditionally warlike and lived a life of conflict. The Ngoni, after attempting to influence the Chewa to conform to their ways with a small and temporary amount of success, ended up conforming to the Chewa lifestyle. The Ngoni became peacemakers and moved more into Chewa practices. (5)

NGOs/NPOs Working with the Chewa
world concern logodoctors without borders logo

Due to the area of Africa in which the Chewa are located there are many problems that these people have to deal with everyday. This region is known for its lack of clean water, the spread HIV/AIDS which is considered an epidemic by many sources, and they lack even the simple medical care to fight against many diseases that we here in the United States have no fear ofencountering. People such as World Concern, and Doctors Without Borders (as well as many others) work in the many different regions of Africa to fight these problems every day. The volunteers and employees of these programs work to ensure the well being of the areas that are sometimes forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. For details on what these and many other programs are doing to help not only people in Malawi but in other areas around the world, please visit their websites.

World Concern --
Doctors Without Borders --

Or visit for a list of NGO's by region

Works Cited

1. Andrew Gislason, "Chewa." Minnesota State University E-Museum, oldworld/africa/chewa.html (accessed July 16 2008)

2. Amy Gough, "The Chewa." The Peoples of the World Foundation, (accessed July 16 2008)

3. Division of Religion and Philisophy Encyclopedia "Chewa Religion." University of Cumbria, (accessed July 16 2008)

4. Gough, A. (2004), "The Chewa." The Peoples of The World Foundation. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from The Peoples of The World Foundation.

5. Mtika, Mike M., and Henry V. Doctor. "Matriliny, Patriliny, and Wealth Flow Variations in Rural Malawi." 28 July 2008 <http://

Graphics Cited
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Chewa Man:

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World Concern Logo:

Ethos Water Logo:

Doctors Without Borders Logo:

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