Jul 062021
 

Today is Independence Day in Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the west, Tanzania to the north and northeast, and Mozambique to the east, south and southwest. Malawi spans over 118,484 km2 (45,747 sq mi) and has an estimated population of 19,431,566 (as of January 2021). Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa, takes up about a third of Malawi’s area.

The part of Africa that is now Malawi was inhabited by a very small population of hunter-gatherers dating back to the Paleolithic. Then, in the 10th century, waves of Bantu peoples began emigrating from the north.  Although most of these peoples continued south, some remained and founded ethnic groups based on common ancestry. By 1500, the Bantu peoples had established the kingdom of Maravi that reached from north of what is now Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River and from Lake Malawi to the Luangwa River in what is now Zambia.

Soon after 1600, with the area mostly united under one local ruler, the population began encountering, trading with and making alliances with Portuguese traders and members of the military. By 1700, however, the empire had broken up into areas controlled by many individual ethnic groups. The Indian Ocean slave trade reached its height in the mid-19th century, when approximately 20,000 people were enslaved and transported yearly from Nkhotakota to Kilwa where they were sold.

Missionary and explorer David Livingstone reached Lake Malawi (then Lake Nyasa) in 1859 and identified the Shire Highlands south of the lake as an area suitable for European settlement. As the result of Livingstone’s visit, several Anglican and Presbyterian missions were established in the area in the 1860s and 1870s. The African Lakes Company Limited was established in 1878 to set up a trade, working closely with the missions, and a small mission and trading settlement was established at Blantyre in 1876. A British Consul took up residence there in 1883. The Portuguese government was also interested in the area so, to prevent Portuguese occupation, the British government sent Harry Johnston as British consul with instructions to make treaties with local rulers beyond Portuguese jurisdiction.

In 1891, the area was colonized by the British and became a protectorate of the United Kingdom known as Nyasaland. In 1953, it became a protectorate within the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation was dissolved in 1963. In 1964, the protectorate was ended: Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II, and was renamed Malawi. Two years later it became a republic. It gained full independence from the United Kingdom, and by 1970 had become a totalitarian one-party state under the presidency/dictatorship of Hastings Banda, who remained in this role until 1994.

Today, Malawi has a democratic, multi-party republic headed by an elected president. Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party led the Tonse Alliance grouping of nine political parties and won the court-mandated Presidential Election rerun held on 23rd June 2020 after the May 2019 Presidential Election was annulled due to massive electoral irregularities.

The cuisine of Malawi is dominated by fish from Lake Malawi including chambo (similar to bream) usipa (similar to sardine), mpasa (similar to salmon) and kampango (a species of catfish) with maize and cassava as staples.  Here is a method of cooking chambo influenced by Indian cooking.