The People of Malawi
Malawi is often referred to as the “Warm Heart of Africa” because of the love, warmth and friendliness of its people. Malawians are known for their beaming smiles and the effusive welcome they give travelers. Lonely Planet even goes as far as to rank Malawi as one of the “World’s 10 Happiest Places”.
Underlying all their cheer, however, is their indomitable and resilient spirit. Malawians have faced many hardships and development challenges. Malawi consistently ranks among the poorest countries in the world, and lags behind other countries in southern Africa in several development categories, specifically Education and Healthcare.
About 80% of Malawians live rurally, their primary livelihood being agriculture. Maize (corn) is a primary crop, as is tobacco and cotton. Traditional mud-huts with thatched roofs are typical dwellings, and Malawians are well known among green architects for their eco-friendly construction abilities.
Most of the people of Malawi are of Bantu origin and include the following ethnic groups: Chewa, Nyanja, Yao, Tumbuka, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde. The Chewa people are the majority within the country and their language, Chichewa, is the official language of the country. Despite this high degree of diversity, Malawians are characteristically peaceful, with very few incidences of violence between tribes.
While the “Hunger Season” is a very difficult time for Malawians, a bountiful harvest allows for a rich cuisine. The staple food of Malawi is called nsima. It is made by boiling white maize (corn) flour until it gels. Nsima is then rolled into little balls and dipped into a delicious “relish” made from chicken, fish, goat, beans or vegetables. Other Malawian favorites include mangos, bananas, mbatat biscuits, and a sweet beer known as tobwa.