The Chewa Tribe


The Chewa Tribe is arguably the most prolific tribe in Malawai. Chewa, the primary language, has become the official language of Malawi, as it is taught in schools in addition to English. There are many other languages spoken in the region, especially in the north, where one would hear a lot of Tumbuka.

There are many traditions, including ceremonies, among the Chewa people. According to the Chewa people in Kenya, for instance, ancestors after death reincarnate into their descendants’ offspring. It is generally believed that the Chewa ancestors come back to the living community on earth through the infant naming ceremony. Thus naming a child after a particular ancestor symbolizes the mystical union between the ancestor and the living community.

Art in Malawai predominantly involves three-dimensional sculpture rather than painting or drawing. The human figure is the focus of Malawian art and can be found everywhere from the earliest rock paintings to traditional wooden carvings. Abstract forms are common, as artists seek to represent the metaphysical; and symbolism is frequently used to aid representation of gods and other beings.

Carving skills are passed on each generation, and the pieces take many forms from plaques representing Malawian and African scenes, to chiefs' chairs. These traditionally feature ornate carvings of animal, dances, and daily village life. Carvings are prized by collectors not just for their traditional representations, but also for the relatively rare hardwoods from which they are made.




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