Chewas are Malawi’s largest tribal grouping whose language Chichewa is among the most dominant local language.
Over the years, many historians have attempted to tell the history of the Chewas in Malawi.
A new book Archaeology and Oral Tradition in Malawi explains new discoveries about the Chewas’ early way of life.
“I literally had to dig up pieces of material that could help me understand how Chewas lived at Mankhamba,” said Yusuf Juwayeyi, a professor at Long Island University in an interview from New York, USA.
He said the exercise to excavate the history of the Chewas took him to Mankhamba where they first settled and he discovered many aspects of their early life that have not been discovered before.
“I discovered a lot of smoke pipes. This is an indication that the Chewas were heavy smokers back in the days,” he said.
Juwayeyi added that he
discovered that, among other things, Chewas were into international trade.
“The Chewas actually had very fine and expensive China plates and accessories. I was able to track down where the plates were manufactured and when,” he explained.
The book, written in simple language, details Juwayeyi’s discoveries through first hand findings at Mankhamba, oral tradition and literature, mainly written by Portuguese explorers.
“The material remains that archaeologists recover are objects that people made or acquired, used and then discarded after use. After recovering them, the next step is to make the remains ‘speak’ or tell their story. That is exactly what I did,” reads the book in part.
He plans to launch the book in Malawi once the travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic are suspended.
This is Juwayeyi’s first book. However, in 1999 he co-authored with then president Bakili Muluzi a book titled Democracy With A Price.
Other contributors to the Democracy With A Price were Mercy Mankhambera and the late DD Phiri. The book chronicles the history of multiparty democracy in Malawi.
Juwayeyi is currently a professor of archaeology at Long Island University in United States of America.
His new book is co-published by the University of Cape Town Press in South Africa and James Currey of London, UK and is available on Amazon.