The Malawian people are, without doubt, its greatest asset: friendly and welcoming to a fault. Every visitor is met with a smile and the warmth of the welcome is genuine and long-lasting. With a population of a little more than 14 million, Malawi is one of the more densely peopled countries of this part of Africa. Most of the population is rural, living largely in fascinating traditional villages. Many of today’s Malawians are descendants of the Bantu people who moved across Africa and into Malawi for hundreds of years up to the fifteenth century.


There is a rich cultural mix in Malawi with the Chewa being the most numerous tribe. Others include the Yao, the Nyanja and the Maravi. In the north the Tumbuka are prominent. Each tribe has contributed to the modern Malawi scene, whether it be in dress or dance or language. Masks are commonly used in various dances and ceremonies and these are usually tribe-specific, the best known being the Gule Wamkulu, performed by the Nyau of the Chewa. Traditional (African) doctors still attract many people and the two main ‘modern’ religions, Christianity and Islam, frequently exhibit a continuing adherence to traditional beliefs.





Rhodesia gained independence after ninety years as a British colony, taking the new name Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe, head of Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), took power as prime minister. Dr Canaan Banana was elected president and Joshua Nkomo, head of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (Zapu), Mugabe’s partner in the armed struggle, became minister of the interior.

In 1888 the British South Africa Company, under Cecil John Rhodes, gained permission from the Ndebele to mine gold in the country. More and more settlers arrived, resulting in conflict with the Ndebele in 1893. In 1923 Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony.

The Federation of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, which became Zambia, and Nyasaland, now Malawi, was formed in 1953. The Federation disintegrated in 1963. On 11 November 1965 Prime Minister Ian Smith unilaterally declared Rhodesia independent. The 1972-1979 war of independence between nationalist Blacks and the minority White government left 27 000 dead.