It bears not much semblance with the Scottish birth place of Dr. David Livingstone after which it was named, nevertheless, it is a place to be in its own right. I am talking about Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city and no doubt the country’s commercial capital. Blantyre has a vibrancy that attracts business, leisure and adventurous travellers. However, being Malawi’s oldest city means it’s a place to be to contact the country’s iconic past and roam in its air of time-honoured charm. Such as the Chichiri Museum the secret place of Malawian uniqueness.
Undeniably one of the city’s most popular monuments; the Chichiri Museum, popularly known as Malawi Museum is situated in Chichiri just beside the civic centre of Blantyre along the Masauko-Chipembere Highway. This is where the past meets the presents in an unassuming way.
If you are one of those who think museums are places for old, lifeless materials that offer modern society little value, it’s time to have a rethink. The Chichiri Museum offers something more. Its management have innovatively created vast opportunities for recreational, educational and tourism activities out of its little space.
Part of the highlights of this innovative management includes the provision of special facilities that provide visitors with guided tours of the museum and cultural troupes that perform live for guests. These groups are special training in how to promote Malawian cultural dances. The museum equally holds lectures, while contemporary music, film screenings, drama, and some music related excursions feature on its activities as well.
Additionally, the museum authorities are supporting a number of mobile museum programmes that are being featured separately as a part of Museum’s Education Department. They are doing this for a cause, that is, to support child education in rural areas. Interestingly unique to the museum also is its extension of supports to some charities.
Nevertheless, Chichiri Museum has not lost its core objectives. The Museum continues to be a repository of the things that make Malawians unique when drawn against the rest of the world. “Preservation of all things that have helped create our belief system and way of life is the only way to achieve immortality. That is what we do at the museum,” says Mike Gondwe, the Education Co-ordinator for the Museums of Malawi in 2012.
Essentially, the displays of this museum are focused on ethnology and natural history collections. A visit to the place, for instance, reveals a plethora of science and technological exhibits. But these are just a drop of the downpour the museum offers. Explore further to see the Blantyre’s first fire-fighting brigade machines, traditional clay ovens, a pond of slow-swimming fish, among the limited offers on display.
Some fascinating objects in this museum include absorption spectrophotometers, motorized wheel chairs, gas coolers, cookers and cultural relics. Others are a variety of masks and Liguria used in such traditional dances as Ingoma, Gule wamkulu, and Tchopa.
There is also an array of bows, arrows and spears- remnants of the stone and middle ages, when men counted on hunting to meet their daily needs. Not that all the arrows on display were used during the stone and middle ages, though, as some were used as lately as between the late 1890s and early 1900s during tribal wars- long before guns and bombs took all the fun out of warfare.
Chichiri is also home to other important exhibits, including traditional salt containers (zigulu), Malawi’s maiden decimal coinage, a picture completed by exhibition of the first banknote of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Also on display are some common insect families and fauna species found in Malawi, and a cross-section of game found in some of the country’s National Parks and Game Reserves.
Do I need to say, at least, the museum is more than a dead place? Anyway, more of its materials remain under lock somewhere, prevented from making it to the exhibition room due to space constraints.
So if you make it to Blantyre anytime soon, don’t hesitate to explore the Chichiri Museum, popularly known as Malawi Museum.