Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Lucky Katundu
Considering that it is your first time visiting Chitipa, how would you respond to the greeting, ‘Mwawona’? I can submit to you that although I was born and raised in Malawi, I had never heard this greeting until I came to Chitipa. Mwawona means ‘Good morning’ in English and ‘Mwadzuka bwanji’ in Chichewa (Malawi’s official language). I was dumbfounded when I was greeted this way in my first week in the community. Imagine being part of a community that speaks more than 19 languages. Envision the confusion I had when I was just a new arriver. Sharing boundaries with Zambia and Tanzania, Chitipa has more than 19 languages and the most notable ones are Chilambya, Chindali, Chinamwanga, Chinyiha, Kiswahili, Chibemba, Chichewa and Chitumbuka. It is this rich diversity of languages that makes Chitipa unique from other districts in Malawi. I have already started learning Chilambya. As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” I am confident that soon I will be able to converse with my community members in their language.
One unescapable fact about people in Chitipa is that they love their heritage. I recently watched a Mapenenga dance. This dance is a celebration of the official close of the harvest period. I also witnessed the Kupereka nguwo ceremony. This is one of the cultural ceremonies in my community and it happens when a first-born daughter has given birth to her first born. Her family led by her mother visit her new home, carrying different types of food, traditional beer, and gifts to celebrate the birth of the child. Her in-laws also prepare food to celebrate together with the visitors. However, the ceremony is dominated by women.
Through the community and individual meetings I have conducted, I have learnt that the people here are respectful and welcoming. They have a way of making you not miss home. I look forward to a great and impactful service in Chitipa.