Chewa People | Chewa tribe

The Chewa are a Bantu people of central and southern Africa and the largest ethnic group in Malawi.

The Chewa are closely related to people in surrounding regions such as the Tumbuka and Nsenga. They are historically also related to the Bemba, with whom they share a similar origin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As with the Nsenga and Tumbuka, a small part of Chewa territory came under the influence of the Ngoni, who were of Zulu or Natal/Transvaal origin. An alternative name, often used interchangeably with Chewa, is Nyanja.

Their language is called Chichewa. Internationally, the Chewa are mainly known for their masks and their secret societies, called Nyau, as well as their agricultural techniques.


Oral records of the Chewa may be interpreted to refer to origins in Malambo, a region in the Luba area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from where they emigrated into northern Zambia, and then south and east into the highlands of Malawi. This settlement occurred sometime before the end of the first millennium. After conquering land from other Bantu peoples, they regrouped at Choma, a place associated with a mountain in northern Malawi, and the plateau of northeastern Zambia.

This is one of a number of different interpretations of the early oral records of the Chewa. The first Chewa kingdom was established some time before or after 1480, and by the 16th century there were two systems of government, one maintained by the Banda clan at Mankhamba (near Nthakataka), and the other by the Phiri clan at Manthimba. The Phiri are associated with the Malawian mountain Kaphirintiwa.

By the 17th century, when the ‘Malawi’ state had been unified, the Portuguese had made some contact with the Chewa. Although the Portuguese did not reach the heartland of the chiefdom, there are well documented records of contacts between 1608 and 1667. By 1750, several ‘Malawi’ dynasties had consolidated their positions in different parts of central Malawi, however the Chewa had managed to distinguish themselves from their neighbours through language, by having special tattoo marks (mphini), and by the possession of a religious system based on the nyau secret societies.

The Phiri aristocrats later owned most of Malawi’s tea estates which was repossessed by the Malawian government in the early 1980s. This is a fable made up by people wanting to ingratiate themselves politically with Dr Bakili Muluzi, the truth is that Tea was brought to Malawi by an English family who planted it at the foot of Mulanje Mountain, and still to date own the same Tea Estate, The Dorington Family. Then came other European families, namely the Conforzi’s (Italian), Cathcart-Kays (English), Barrows (English).

The first Malawian owned Tea Estate was a Government Estate, Established by Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, under the Tea Growers Association in the early 1970s.[citation needed]

Chichewa can also be classed as a Shona dialect as some scholars in the region point out. This forms a strong historic link of the Nyanja, Bemba and Yao people, to the ancient Shona empire, who can point their earlier origins to Mashonaland. The ancient Shonas who temporarily dwelt in Malambo, now in the DRC, eventually shifted into northern Zambia, and then into Malawi.

The Chinyanja language, ChiChewa or Chewa, emerged as a distinct tongue in the 16th century, according to scholars. In the 21st century, Chewa vocabulary and grammar is similar to Shona dialects spoken in Zimbabwe, especially ChiZezuru and ChiManyika.

3 thoughts on “Chewa People | Chewa tribe

  1. ntuthukozwane

    Chewa = Chagwe = Ncwane = Ncela = Ciya = Cirha. OTshabalala emTshezini or Shai or Ishaka or Isaka (as in King Shaka and Pixley Isaka ka Seme. AmaTshezi amaHlubi angoMaseko, Mshengu = AmaNgoni = AmaGio = AmaDan = AMaTiwane or Sebia or Sibiya or Nambya or Mnambithi or Mbonambi. Inzalo yakwa Tshe-Bia or Joel-Abiya = Sebia = Ndawonde or Nyawonde or Dawode or Dawud or David – Ilembe lamaLembe, Ingonyama, Duma, Mbube, the Lion of Judah! UDawude had his own impi as a senior and liked army general under the Sigcau or Saul or Dlezi or Thelezi or Shezi or Tshezi or Jezi or Jesi or Shazi or Shai or Ishaka or Issachar or Yitzrah or Swe or Nsele or Hosea or Wosiyane or Joshua or Josue or Joshengu or Showe or Ntshosho/Zotsho Kingdom of Saul or Sigcau ka Cis/Mkhize ka Jemini Or Dlemini of the tribe of Benjamin/Zwane. Bilhar or Bala an Abrahamite/Medeanite from Abraham’s wife in old age (Sarai died when Abraham had taken Isaac to Mount Horeb to sacrifice him to the Lord) called Cetura/Ketura. Abraham had 8 sons in total. Bilhar and Zila where the Zwane surname comes from, were 2 sisters born to Rachel and Leah’s father Laban’s slave Rotheus and his slave wife Euna, both God-fearing Medans. The bore you these following sons of Israel/Jacob, respectively, Bila or Biya or Bilpahr or Flipha or Filipha = Dan = Ngoni = Gio = Matiwane or Mthiyane = Mathanias or Mthania. The other son is Naphtali or Naphutali or Naphuthinga = Maphuthing = Phuthini = Mazibuko & Zwane in Zulus etc. Zilphar or Zilipha or Zilibinga = Ziligazi = Ezricam or Zila (as in Mzilankatha or Maziya etc.) then bore or Gaddi or Khali or Hari or Hair or Haye or Khanye or Mngadi or Mahaye or Makanya etc. And she bore Asher or Ashur or Mashur or MaTswa or MaShanga or MaThekua or Mande Kua or Mandeku or Mathembu or Mathebula or Mathenjwa or MaSwazi.

    So, Biya bore Dan and Naphtali and Zila bore Gadi and Asher/Ahala or AmaHala or Amhara. The senior wife in Jacob’s house was Rachel and Junior was Leah or Lela or Liah or Liwa or Liya or lewa or Rewa or Lange. Zila was a Qadi. Biya a Khohlo and Ndlunkulu Rachel or Langela/Langane.

    Rachel bore Joseph who was sold by his brothers to Ismaelites who sold him to Potipher – isikhuli saPharo at the time – because ubeyoNtande or Ndwandw kaJacob or Jolabe or Joab or Jobinga or Jobai or Sobai or Sobal or Mashoba. Rachel died in Benjamin’s Child birth. That’s why his first name was Benoni because they cut Rachel in order to take him out.

    This is all in the Bible is anyone cared to read.

    The Chewa make up isizwd sakwaCele esiphethe amaPondomise or Mbudumise or Manala or Galla or Ngala = Dlomo-Thembu LA agcwele eKZN nase-Eastern Cape.

  2. ntuthukozwane

    Cele = Celia in Bible as it is said they are called Machathi or Makhathi in the Bible.

  3. ntuthukozwane

    Gad and Naphtali then took wife’s Uzith (Mzinto/Zikwa/Zitho or Uzithi or Uzinde etc.) and Merimar/Migema, the daughters of Amuram, son of Uz, son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother from who came Rebecca, Rachel and Leah fr Bethuel, the son of Nahor. Nahor is also Nachor = Nako = Khathi = Gadi = Khayi = Kei = Nango as in Baba-NANGO. Nango is also Gagu = Gola as in Angola can be wrriten as a Anango and Akhathi or Makhathi. 3 tribes fall under Makhathi according to the Bible: Garmi or Hamul or Chamul = Malambule, MaKhambule, Ngcamu, Mgabhi or Macambi. In Botswana they say inzalo kaTawana or AbaNtwana – Pedis or Zulus or Nzwana or Zwana or Zwane. The second is Celia or Celani or Gerani or Khelani or Khelela (Helman Mkhelele) = Cele = Ndosi/Thusi = Kwena = Ngwenya = Gaye = Haye etc. And the last is called Esthamo of Ntamo or Mntambo or Ndawo or Tau or Mlambo or Sambo or Mbambo. Inzalo kaEleazar (Dlangezwa or Dlazane or Dala-Zwane or Mhlazana) and Jamela/Jerameel, son of Cis/Mkhize of Jemini of the tribe of Benjamin. These are the 3 tribe called Makhathi or Machathi (Bible: Doauy Reims, 16th CE straight from Latin Vulgate that comes from Greek that came from Hebrew and the Septuagint). Makhathini = MaGadini = Tribe of Had, son of Israel.

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