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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Poets, Culture and Orature: A Reappraisal of the Malawi Political Public Sphere, 1953-2006
Author:Lwanda, John
Periodical:Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Geographic term:Malawi
popular music
History and Exploration
Literature, Mass Media and the Press
Politics and Government
Architecture and the Arts
Abstract:Mapanje and Mphande make a persuasive case for the significant role of literature in challenging Dr Banda's one-party hegemony in Malawi. The contested terrain, as Mphande notes, was orality, the dominant medium in Malawi where literacy levels are low. It has been assumed, though, that orature did little to challenge Banda's hegemony. The present author argues that far from being silent, the popular musicians and dramatists (as orature) were much braver than the writers. While written poetry and prose was often presented in coded and dense texts, the musicians' and dramatists' lyrics and texts were usually much more explicit. And while writers used folk tales and appropriations from traditional culture as templates to critique Dr Banda's autocratic regime, oral practitioners went further, critiquing Dr Banda's regime using the same templates but also pointing out the socioeconomic suffering of the peasantry. Since 1994, as writers' critiques have become muted and spasmodic in the 'multiparty', musicians have consistently been loud and forceful voices on behalf of the poor. From 1953 to 2006, orature has been a continuous tool of resistance whereas literature has been an intermittent response, often related to patronage, to political and socioeconomic events. Furthermore, while literature tends to be concerned predominantly with human rights and democracy issues, orature is concerned with these, but also with socioeconomic rights; a distinction reflective of class, the rural/urban divide and education in Malawi. The findings can be generalized to other Bantu-language-speaking countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique. The author posits that assessments of Malawi's current and future socioeconomic and political cultures that exclude oral critiques miss significant and critical factors impacting on developmental changes in these spheres. Bibliogr., discogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract]