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Title:Diaspora, domicile and debate: a preliminary artistic and cultural search for a Malawi identity from pre-colonial times to 2014
Author:Lwanda, JohnISNI
Periodical:The Society of Malawi Journal
Geographic term:Malawi
political opposition
Abstract:The paper traces representations and contestations of colonial and postcolonial Malawian identities through artistic and cultural discourses. The author argues that the relevant identities were produced in several phases: first by pre-colonial dynamics; second by the colonizing process producing an economic migrant population; third, by the post-independence Cabinet Crisis of 1964 and Dr Banda's dictatorship producing marginalized exiled dissidents and, by association, a marginalized Malawi Diaspora. The final phase was the post-1994 largely economic migration, which was facilitated by globalization and the freedom of movement. The author contends that a significant section of domiciled elite, as opposed to rural Malawians, consider that 'Malawians' in the sense of citizenship rights, are only those residing in Malawi. Most Diaspora Malawians, however, consider themselves Malawian but face marginalization through distance, through the denial of their Malawi political and cultural rights, as well as others questioning their Malawian identity. The denial of rights, with aspects traceable to the colonial period, became more focused with the end of the Federation (the attainment of independence). Dr Banda used it as a way of excluding troublesome political elements. This pattern of marginalizing Diaspora Malawians has persisted despite economic ties and the 'unity of purpose' between domiciled and Diaspora opposition elements during the 1991-1994 transition to multiparty rule. Political, poetic, linguistic, musical, artistic, and other cultural discourses are used to define and perpetuate the marginalization. Even though they are former long-term exiles, Dr Banda and Dr Mutharika recruited cultural discourses to marginalize external opponents. Paradoxically, any Diaspora Malawian who distinguishes themselves in the arts, business, sport, or other activities abroad is accorded 'Malawian-ness.' The most significant relationship between domiciled and Diaspora Malawians remains economic as well as intellectual. Malawians in the Diaspora remit significant amount of financial and intellectual resources and those residing in Malawi control all access to citizenship rights. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]