The Chewa are a Bantu people of central and southern Africa and the largest ethnic group in Malawi. Internationally, the Chewa are mainly known for their masks and their secret societies, called Nyau, as well as their agricultural techniques.
They however have a more interesting ritual that some people may find disturbing. It is the custom of the people that when a tribe member dies, the body is taken to a sacred place where they cut the throat of the deceased open. The corpse is then cleaned by pouring water inside the dead body and squeezed through the stomach until water comes out clean. What is most shocking of this is that they use that same water to cook a meal for the whole tribe.
There are two large Chewa clans, the Phiri and the Banda. The Phiri are associated with the kings and aristocracy, the Banda with healers and mystics.
Drainage in the area is good. Besides the Shire River which drains from Lake Malawi into the Zambezi River, there are many other rivers and numerous streams that rise in the surrounding hills and drain into the lake. The annual rainfall in the area ranges from 820 mm to 1030 mm. Although this amount is less than that of some of the other regions, it is still sufficient for dry farming.
The temperature is between 25 and 30 c’ year-round. The vegetation which existed there before the area was heavily cultivated supported a wide variety of wild fauna as confirmed by remains from archaeological sites. However, today wild animals are rarely sighted. However, the rising human population and uncontrolled hunting have reduced these numbers to near extinction.”
Chewa people speak Chewa, also known as Nyanja. The gender prefix chi- is used for languages, so the language is also known as Chichewa and Chinyanja (spelled Cinyanja in Zambia), and locally Nyasa in Mozambique. Chichewa or Chinyanja is a language of the Bantu family of languages that is widely spoken in parts of East, Central and Southern Africa.
It is the most widely-spoken language in Malawi where, from 1968 until the mid-1990s, it was the national language. It is also spoken in Mozambique; Zambia, and Zimbabwe, where it is the third most widely used local language.
More than 65% of Malawi’s population of 11 million have active command of Chichewa, and perhaps as many as 80% have some knowledge of the language. In Mozambique, out of a population of 18 million, approximately 3.3%, mostly in the Tete Province in the lower Zambezi Valley and Niassa Province in the northeast of the country, speak Chinyanja. In Zambia, with a population of 10 million, approximately 16% are native speakers, and they live mostly in the Eastern Province, near the border with Malawi. However, Chinyanja is widely spoken beyond the Eastern Province, and it is estimated that as many as 42% of Zambians have basic communication skills in the language.The fact that the standard Nyanja used in schools differs dramatically from the variety actually spoken in Lusaka has been identified as a barrier to the acquisition of literacy among Zambian children. iSchool.zm,
which develops online educational content in Zambian languages, has begun making ‘Lusaka Nyanja’ available as a separate language of instruction after finding that schoolchildren in Lusaka do not understand standard Nyanja. Chinyanja has its origin in the Eastern Province of Zambia from the 15th century to the 18th century. The language remained dominant despite the breakup of the empire and the Nguni invasions and was adopted by Christian missionaries at the beginning of the colonial period.
In Zambia, Chewa is spoken by other peoples like the Ngoni and the Kunda, so a more neutral name, Chinyanja “(language) of the lake” (referring to Lake Malawi), is used instead of Chewa.