Karonga is a district in the northern tip of Malawi and it is a home to the Ngonde, Nyakyusa and Henga people. To the tip north of the district it forms boarders with Tanzania, with Songwe River as a demarcation between Malawi and Tanzania. To the west, there is a stretch of a rift valley lake known as Lake Malawi. The eastern part is bordered with Chitipa district of Malawi and to its north part; it is bordered with Rumphi district which is a home to the Tumbuka people.
Ngonde are a group of people who are believed to have come from BuKinga in Tanzania. In Malawi, they arrived in around the mid fourteenth and fifteenth century. Upon their arrival in the area, they found Simbowe, an elephant hunter, who had established himself in the area. Their establishment in the area meant driving out Simbowe who was based at Mbande Hill of which was to become Kyungu's residence. After successfully driving out Simbowe, Kyungu together with his successors and representatives lived in seclusion in the hill. His office was a divine one and hence he lived in seclusion. Kyungu's health was highly observed. It was believed that a healthy Kyungu was important for the fertility of the country together with reproductive fertility of women. Therefore, the Kyungu was not supposed to fall sick because this affected fertility of the land. As his health was highly observed, if the chief fell sick, he was strangled to death. Till today, the Ngonde people and Karonga at large are ruled by Kyungus who look after the culture and the affairs of the people.
Nyakyusa are a group of people who share the same historical and cultural background with the Ngonde. The Nyakusa are also said to have migrated from BuKinga in Tanzania. They came to establish themselves at the tip end of Karonga in Malawi and some, probably a good number of them, established themselves in Tanzania. These Nyakyusa people were divided by the arbitrary division of boundaries between the British and German Governments and in the course, these people are found in different countries because of the British and German governments interests.
The Nyakyusa had relatively lived peacefully in the area without the influence of outsiders. These people used to organize themselves in age groups. Every 30-35 years, the Nyakyusa witnessed a great ritual that was celebrated. At this point in time, political power was handed over by fathers down to their sons as leaders of the fathers' whose generation would retire becoming priests.
The Henga people are a group of Tumbuka people. These people had come all the way from the Tumbuka land to establish themselves in this area due to the havoc caused by the ruthless Ngoni fighters from South Africa. The panic caused by these Ngoni's led to the Henga to run away and in the process, they established themselves in the land.
Since their establishment in the land, the Ngonde have also been interrupted by other outsiders and the most notorious of these was Mlozi. Mlozi was an Arab slave trader who established himself in the Ngonde land in around the last quarter of 19th century. Mlozi was not his real name but it was given to him by the people. One of the reasons could be that since Mlozi was a slave trader, he could have been referred to as a witch of which in Ngonde is Mulosi hence the name Mlozi. These slavery activities were not among the Ngonde and hence it was easy to call someone a witch of which in Ngonde is Mulosi. The British, who were also outsiders, were the ones who rescued the Ngonde from slavery. They helped the Ngonde to defeat Mlozi who had terrorized them. Mlozi was defeated and beheaded being afraid that he might rise again and start terrorizing the area again.
In 1891, long at last, the British established a protectorate over Nyasaland (now Malawi). This was largely due to the mission work that sought protection from the British government. In its response, the British government established a protectorate over Nyasaland until independence in 1964.
Discoveries in Karonga
As Africa is believed to be the cradle of human kind, discoveries in the district have shown that it could really be. Research work in the district has led to discoveries of early human remains and some tools. In addition to this, a dinosaur has also been discovered in the area,believed to have lived between 65 - 140 million years ago. For early human remains, Homo rudolfensis and Paranthropus boisei have been discovered. Homo rudolfensis is said to have 2.5 million years old. While on the other hand, Paranthropus boisei, a pre-human primate is said to have lived 2.5 million years ago.
Karonga and places to visit
Karonga is one of the tourist destinations in Malawi. The most attractive feature is the fresh water lake, Lake Malawi. Along the lake, there are a number of beaches and sanctuaries which do provide accommodation and food. As one passes through the district, to the other side of the road, one can see the lake appearing and disappearing into a distant however not far from sight. Karonga boma, an administrative centre for the district, provides refreshments after long travel and one can also find good accommodation, banking and internet services as well a museum to visit; where the dinosaurs' discoveries are housed. The museum also has other nice displays. Outside the museum, there are some stations that are run by the museum where travelling is by the use of cars. Karonga boma is one of the fastest growing towns in Malawi and its people are always busy. Conversations are done in a number of local languages and Kiswahili, national language for Tanzania, however, English is also in use.
Dances of the Ngonde
Dances are highly for entertainment among the Ngonde however some are ritualistic in nature. As a subsistence society, people rely on agriculture, which is rain fed. Due to this, people heavily depend on rains and during the time of rain, people get busy in their gardens. After harvest, the workload, due end of growing season, reduces and people find time to drink, sing songs and dance. On Christmas and new year there are a lot of dances staged together with songs. Women, children, men and the elderly are highly entertained to these dances and songs. In a patrilineal society where women's voices are least heard, songs and dances expresses their daily life experiences. Below are some of the dances preformed by the Ngonde and Nyakyusa. Some dances are shared with the Tumbuka. These dances are Vimbuza, Mnyamulathuli, Chiwoda, Malipenga and Ndolo. Other additional dances and performances of the Ngonde and Nyakyusa are also listed below.
Indingala is a dance performed by the Nyakyusa and Ngonde. Originally, the dance is said to be a ritual as it was performed after a war, upon death and installation of a new chief or territorial rulers and counselors. Currently, the dance is performed for entertainment. In Indingala there are three drums that are used to produce sound of which is followed by singing.
Like other dances, Ngwaya is preformed for entertainment. Usually dry maize is put into a pot and this pot together with the maize produce a sound that is musical, it is then followed by songs. The pot is carefully shaken to produce this musical sound. It is performed, usually, by people who are drunk especially during Christmas eve and New Year's Day celebrations.
Viwenga is a dance usually performed by men and it is for entertainment purposes. Men usually go drinking after the harvest because there is little to do. And it is like the Ngwaya dance which drunken men perform. Drums are used and echoed by songs sung by the dancers themselves. This is either performed during the day or night.
The prevalent ritual that can still be observed among the Nyakyusa and Ngonde is the rain-calling ritual. Rain is very important among these people because they depend on rain-fed subsistence agriculture. Therefore, without rain, life is tough the problems faced are great. Therefore, basing on this, if there is no rain or no sufficient rain, rain rituals are called upon to call for rainfall. This has been happening for longtime however the Livingstonia mission, which is also among the Tumbuka, discourages the practice. Same people that go to church are the same people that take part in the rain rituals. All this is meant to have rainfall which is at the centre of a subsistence economy.
Witchcraft is a phenomenon that refuses to die in Malawi and or Africa. People are accused of witchcraft and some challenge that they possess these witchcraft powers. Among the Nyakyusa and Ngonde, witchcraft is also prevalent today having many accusations. Misfortunes to someone are tended to be interpreted as a result of witchcraft. Some examples include sudden death, incurable diseases, infertility, and little or a bad harvest. Unlike the west where magic is seen as entertainment, Africans translate everything as evil if it can't be explained through natural human nature.
Back to Top