Origin of the name Malawi:It’s possible that it could have originated from Mallawi in Upper Egypt


Origin of the name Malawi:

Its possible that it could have originated from Mallawi in Upper Egypt.

The first Malawians to leave traces of their lives were knappers of sturdy stone axes and scrapers some 100,000 years ago. From the 3rd Century AD modern African peoples settled in villages on the shores of Lake Malawi.

The Chewa founded the important Maravi empire at the southern end of the Lake in the 16th Century, trading with the Portuguese on the coast, while the Yao built an empire around the area of Blantyre and Zomba. In the 19th Century the Ngoni, relatives of the Zulus, swept up into Malawi and soon settled in the area. The Swahili set up on the shores of the Lake, establishing links as far north as Zanzibar.

The course of Malawian history changed when Scottish explorer David Livingstone, thwarted by the Cahora Bassa rapids on the Zambezi river, turned his small steamer north up a tributary, the Shire river, towards the great lake he had heard report of. Greatly impressed by Lake Malawi, he returned two years later to what he called `the Lake of Stars’.

Mallawi is a city located in Upper Egypt, specifically in the Minya Governorate. It is situated on the east bank of the Nile River, approximately 200 kilometers south of Cairo. Mallawi is an ancient city with a rich history, dating back to the Pharaonic era. However, it is also believed to be a possible origin for the Malawi people.

The Malawi people are a Bantu ethnic group that inhabits parts of Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique in Southeast Africa. However, the origin of their name and the people themselves is somewhat unclear. One theory suggests that the Malawi people originated from the area around Mallawi in Upper Egypt and migrated southward along the Nile River.

According to this theory, the Malawi people were originally known as the “Mallawis,” named after the city of Mallawi. They were said to have migrated southward along the Nile River and eventually settled in the area that is now Malawi. Over time, the name “Mallawi” was shortened to “Malawi,” which eventually became the name of the country itself.

While this theory is intriguing, it is difficult to prove definitively it opens countless opportunities for research considering the Bantu migration from Egypt.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding their origins, the Malawi people have a rich culture and history. They have their own unique language, Chichewa, which is spoken by the majority of the population in Malawi. The Malawi people are also known for their traditional music, dance, and art.

Ancient Malawi

Two thousand years ago there was a simple stone-age culture in Malawi. The people lived by hunting and gathering. However, by the 4th century AD, Bantu people arrived in the area and introduced iron tools and weapons. They also introduced farming.

In the 15th century, people who lived south of Lake Nyasa began to build an empire. They created an empire called the Maravi. By the 18th century, the Maravi Empire included parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. However, in the 18th century, the Maravi Empire broke up.

Meanwhile in the 16th century, the Portuguese reached the Maravi Empire. The people of the empire sold them slaves and ivory. The Portuguese brought maize (originally a South American crop) to this part of Africa.

In the 18th century and early 19th century a people from northern Mozambique called the Yao raided Malawi and took captives to be sold to the Arabs as slaves.

In the 1840s a fierce people called the Ngoni invaded the area. They frequently fought the Yao.

British Malawi
In 1859 David Livingstone the Scottish explorer and missionary reached Lake Nyasa. Following him in 1873 two Scottish Presbyterian missionary societies built missions in the area. More missionaries followed and British merchants began to sell goods in the region. In 1883 Britain sent a consul to the area.

Gradually the British took control of Malawi. In 1889 they formed the Shire Highlands Protectorate and in 1891 most of Malawi was formed into the British Central African Protectorate. The first commissioner was Harry Johnston. The British ended the slave trade and created coffee plantations. In 1897 Johnston was replaced by Alfred Sharpe.

In 1907 the British named Malawi Nyasaland. Also in 1907 Nyasaland was given a legislative council. The commissioner was made a governor. Alfred Sharpe retired in 1910.

When the First World War began Germans from Tanzania invaded Nyasaland (Malawi) but they were repelled. However, in January 1915 a man named John Chilembwe led a rebellion in Malawi which was quickly crushed.

During World War II almost 30,000 Malawians served in the armed forces.

However, as the Africans were increasingly well educated they became more and more dissatisfied with being ruled by Europeans. In 1944 they formed the Nyasaland African Congress. In 1949 native Malawians were allowed to sit on the legislative council for the first time.

Then in 1953, the British joined Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Nyasaland (Malawi) into a single unit called the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

In 1958 Dr Hasting Banda became head of the African Congress, which was renamed the Malawi Congress Party in 1959. There were many protests against British rule and as a result, a state of emergency was declared. (During it Banda was imprisoned for a time).

However the British now realized that independence for Malawi was inevitable. In 1961 the Malawian Congress Party won elections to the legislative council and in 1962 the British agreed to make Malawi independent. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved in 1963. Malawi became independent on 6 July 1964.

Modern Malawi
At first, Banda was the prime minister of Malawi. In 1966 Malawi was made a republic. (The British Queen was no longer head of state) and Banda became president.

Under British rule, Zomba was the capital of Malawi. In 1975 Lilongwe became the capital.

For economic reasons, Banda was keen to have good relations with South Africa. In 1967 he established diplomatic relations. This move was unpopular because South Africa then had a system of apartheid. Nevertheless, Banda visited South Africa in 1971.

Furthermore, Banda’s rule became a dictatorship. In 1971 he made himself president of Malawi for life. All dissent was ruthlessly crushed. Letters and telephone calls were censored. So were films and magazines.

However, like other African dictators, Banda himself was very rich, while most of his people were very poor. Banda owned palaces, cars, and even helicopters.

Then in 1992 Malawi suffered a severe drought. Not surprisingly there were violent protests in Malawi. Also, some western countries suspended aid. The Malawian churches also decried the situation.

Finally in 1993 Banda was forced to hold a referendum. The people were asked if they wanted to continue one-party rule or return to democracy. The great majority voted for democracy. So elections were held on 17 May 1993. Bilki Muluzi became the new president.

21st Century Malawi
Today many people in Malawi are subsistence farmers. The main crops are cassava, sorghum, and maize. There are also many cattle and sheep. Malawi also has many white-owned plantations. Products include tea, tobacco, sugar, cotton, and peanuts.

Many Malawians also live by fishing on Lake Malawi. Furthermore, Malawi has a great potential for tourism. It has several national parks.

The Legacy of Slavery
The horrors of Slavery in Africa: At the height of slavery in the mid 19th century, the Swahili Arabs together with other tribes are believed to have either killed or sold into slavery 80,000 to 100,000 Africans per year! Those taken from Malawi and Zambia would be brought to one of the Arab trading centres such as Karonga or Salima where they would be sold to ‘wholesalers’.

They were then crammed into dhows (traditional wooden sailing boats – you still see them today) and taken across Lake Malawi.

Once on the eastern bank they were marched across Mozambique to the east coast of Africa, usually chained or tied to poles made of wood to prevent escape. Many others were forced to carry Elephant tusks as ivory was a major commodity. Any slave too ill or weak to make the journey were abandoned and died of dehydration or were eaten by wild animals.

At the coast, the slaves were once more loaded back into dhows for the journey north to Zanzibar Island -Tanzania. They were packed tightly lying on top of one another in several layers in the hold of the boat.

There was no food or water and conditions were terrible! Those who died (Many did, especially if crossings took long due to poor winds) could not be removed until the journey ended. Those who survived were sold once more in the large slave market in Zanzibar and then shipped to places such as India and Arabia.

Slavery had existed in Africa for many years, but as demand from outside Africa increased, the Swahili Arabs began to push into the interior to increase their supply.

Between 1842 and 1856 David Livingstone had been exploring in Africa and on his return to Britain spoke at meetings about the undiscovered interior of Africa and the horrors of the slave trade. He returned to Africa in 1858 and travelled to Malawi in September 1859 finally reaching Lake Malawi – which he named Lake Nyassa.

Throughout his journey he came across major slave routes, one that passed through today’s town of Mangochi (closest town to Nanchengwa Lodge, has a great market which is well worth a visit) Through the rest of the 1860’s missionaries came to Malawi to build missions. They suffered terribly from malaria and conflict with the local people.

Warm Heart of Africa
Modern day Malawi is still very rural and poor. The people are fantastically friendly which is why it is known as the ‘Warm heart of Africa’ – and it is a land of mountains, plateau’s and an enormous lake.

Essentially a rural subsistence life, thousands of Malawians lively hoods are derived from the lake and fishing related activities. In big and small markets throughout Malawi shining silver piles of dried fish ‘Usipa’ are sold. Closer to the lake fresh fish is available. ‘Chambo’ is the most delicious!




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