Sunday, 18 March 2012

Cultural Oasis, Kungoni Centre, Mua, Dedza



It started as a normal day, just like any other day at the college, but only that there was a school trip that particular day. I had no idea that in just a few hours time I would literally be blown away by an extremely heavy dose of Malawian culture. I made my way to the bus that morning and I don’t really remember the time spent on the bus, it’s like my mind got erased and was filled with the knowledge I acquired that day. All I remembered was getting to our destination, The Kungoni Centre, Mua village in Dezda, 60km from Salima.
Other buildings
African MaskEstablished by Claude Boucher Chisale in 1976, the Kungoni centre is literally the heart of Malawi, it contains virtually everything and anything to do with Malawian culture and history including various rites, language, initiations and art forms of the various tribes of Malawi, such as the Ngoni, Chewa and Yao. Being of Chewa origin I learnt things that even my parents didn’t know. If you don’t really know what happens at initiations, births, and deaths in various cultures and you are in that particular setting, don’t be socially awkward, know what’s going on, blend in.
Paintings on the wall
The Chamare Museum houses dozens of amazing and colourful masks, drums of all shapes and sizes, splendid carvings and intricate details of tribes in Malawi, not to mention a timeline of Malawi dating to back to the very early 1900's when the Mua mission was founded. The Kafukufuku Research centre is a massive information source which houses archives of Malawian culture in photos, videos, books and other media. It has the most extensive information and displays for explaining to visitors as well as Malawian of their cultural roots to enable you to have a deeper understanding about Malawian culture.
Some of the other Arts & Craft
And of course my favourite part, the outside walls of the buildings have multiple sequential pictures that tell a story starting from the creation of the earth according to the Chewa myth till the time the British colonialists came to Malawi. I don’t remember it all, but you definitely need to hear the way it is told. But am sure I’ll post the Chewa creation myth, or as much of it as I can remember.
Originally the Mua mission was founded by the Missionary Fathers in 1902, and some of the original buildings still stand today. It was set up with the aim to help local artists, but now not only does it have hundreds upon hundreds of carvings with experienced artists, it is a centre of Malawian culture. If you want to buy carvings from Malawi, the ones here offer more variety than the ones in larger cities, take a look for yourself.

The wood carvings made by local artists

There is an outdoor grass thatched stage which resembles a theatre where you can enjoy the performing arts such as traditional dances and songs from different tribes. The dancers wear their full attire and masks for the occasion, the dance and tribal origin. There is just so much originality to every performance that you become immersed in every performance.

The man made waterfallThe centre also has a zoo with wildlife enclosures where you can see animals such as 
porcupines, crocodile, antelope, wild birds and python. This adds a little more to the African vibe that is already going on. The landscape is simply beautiful, streams cross the area and there is a man made waterfall. Indigenous trees and flowers as well as exotic ones cover the gardens and the scenery is just amazing.
The zoo
There is just so much crammed at this centre that I am completely certain I've only scraped the surface, there are many activities and projects that go on too. For you to completely take it all in, you definitely need to stay for a few days. I feel that every visitor wanting to learn about Malawi should start from here, and if you are Malawian you definitely need to find yourself by knowing your roots and have a sense of pride for your particular culture. Kungoni Cultural centre in Mua is a must see for all.
The streams that cut across the area