The Chewa originated in the country of Zaire, but they emigrated to northern Zambia and central Malawi where they now live. The Chewa people are the largest ethnic group in Malawi and live primarily in the Central Region. The Chewa established their first kingdom around the year 1480. There are presently over 1.5 million Chewa people throughout Malawi and Zambia, however they are not considered people of Malawi, nor people of Zambia, but people of the Nyanja group of Bantu. The major languages spoken by these people are Chewa and English, but they also speak Nyanja (they call their language Chichewa).This research will be on the Chewa people historical facts, traditions, and daily life of these people. The Chewa people first originated in Malambo, a place in the Luba area of Zaire, where they emigrated to northern Zambia, and then south and east into the highlands of Malawi. They migrated to Malawi during the 14th or 15th century. Their settlement was somewhere before the end of the first millennium. The first Chewa kingdom was established sometime either before 1480 or after that time. By the 16th century there were two different systems of authority, one controlled by the Banda clan at Mankhamba, and the other by the Phiri clan at Manthimba. By the 17th century, around the time the Malawi' state became unified, the Portuguese made contact with the Chewa. Portuguese never reach the heartland of the chiefdom, but they had well documented records that occurred between 1608 and 1667. By 1700, several Malawi' dynasties had consolidated their positions to various parts of central Malawi. The Chewa people had distinguished themselves from their neighbors through language, by having special tattoo marks called "nembo", and coordinated a religious system based on the nyau secret societies. HISTORY
By the 1500s, the Phiri were the paramount family. They ruled over several semi-independent chiefdoms in the eastern part of Central Africa. The Phiri people were known as the Maravi, or the "fire flames". The controlled trade in fine cloths, foodstuff, iron goods, ivory, craft items, salt, slaves, and precious metals. All the trade with the outsiders had to pass the royal capital. The Maravi received tribute from their people. The carcass of every killed elephant, the tusk that lay upon the ground and "touched the king's land" was taken to the regional chief, who passed it on to the paramount chief. He could trade it for cloth or slaves with a trader. Hunters also gave items to the chief such as red feathers of certain birds and the skins of lions and leopards. The poison parts of animals were given to the chief because he was considered immune to their lethal power. Much of the wealth of the Maravi, just as for the Chewa people today, came from farming. The earth in their country was very fertile, and local farmers often produced surpluses for trade. Land was considered very precious. Paramounts distributed land among local chiefs who allocated it to village headmen. Food and other goods were stored to help the poor, to give as gifts to loyal local leaders, to entertain visitors, or during festivals. The Maravi federation was at its peak during the 1600s and as it grew, it became difficult to control the more distant territories. Paramount chiefs began to run out of land to give out to new chiefs. Competition for trade and the invasion of new groups into the new region combined to break down Maravi power. By the 1700s, the Maravi federation had broken into rival chiefdoms. The Chewa are a core group that separated from the Maravi. Indivisual chiefs preferred to deal directly with Portuguese and Muslim traders in their area, rather than share wealth with the paramount chief. The Maravi continued as it weakened in the 1800s. The Maravi rules "sold-off" disobedient subjects to slavers. They bought slaves as wives for loyal chiefs. As the Maravi Empire declined, slave hunters from the east coast of Africa began to...
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