Malawi represents some 16 different languages spoken by a diversity of ethnic groups, each of which has stories handed down from generation to generation. Folktales and story-telling play an integral, indeed central, role in the live of Malawians. And yet because they are circulated within communities by word of mouth for the purpose of education, either in social morals or for children, they are seldom recorded in print or audio format.
This oral tradition is all but vanishing in recent years due to the aging of community figures who can deliver live performances as well as changes in lifestyle. And because Malawi has made little effort to preserve the tradition, the unique culture of its ethnic groups is on the verge of extinction.
“The emphasis is on respect for tradition as well as nature in general. The respect for tradition goes along with the belief that everything, according to the elders’ vision of the world, trees, animals, rivers, stones, mountains, are endowed with life, hence the interaction of humans and non humans in the folktales. Mountains, trees or stones were believed to be the abode of the spirits. Because today respect for these has disappeared, we see the wanton cutting down of trees, the destruction of sacred places and the disinterest in oral traditions,” said Professor Boston Soko of Oral Literature, University if Mzuzu. He provides a pool of consultancy services as an expert of the field.