Nankumba Peninsula is a small place with deep historical roots, although this is unlikely to be backed up by piles of rubble of what used to be iconic buildings, let alone improvised memorial stones.
As if to make up for the missing iconic buildings that were supposed to be part of the rubble now as well as memorial stones, renowned author Okoma-atani SL Aipira has decided to create rubble and memorial stones with ink, replete with pictures and illustrations.
This latest version of history is contained in Nankumba Peninsula Heritage Trail, a book that depicts Nankumba through geographical position, predominant language, religion, cultural dances and ceremonies, rituals, cultural heritage and social aspects, tourism and vocations.
Nankumba Peninsula’s story is also put in context through the focus on Lake Malawi National Park, one of the peninsula’s resorts, Nankumba lineage and chieftaincy and how these, and more, make, or were supposed to make, the place a tourism destination of choice.
Nankumba Peninsula Heritage Trail started as a project meant to fill a Social Anthropology gap on people who stay at the peninsula in the lakeshore district of Mangochi.
When Aipira felt that focused research on the peninsula would make good material for a book, all was set for publication of this latest book, one that serves as a lesson to Malawians that their stories can be told through local lens.
For, surely, if those who lived in what is now modern-day Malawi had chronicled the history of what is now Lake Malawi, Scottish missionary Dr David Livingstone would not have ‘discovered’ it way back in 1858.
Nankumba, for starters, is a piece of land in the Southern Region district of Mangochi. As Nicholas Petry Ngalimba Kamkwalala puts it in the introduction, “in geographical sense, the area is known as The Nankumba Peninsula while people commonly just refer [to] it as Monkey Bay.
“The area starts from Mtonda Village of Village Headman Maudzu to Cape Maclear, to Malembo to end up somewhere at Chinganji (Nthundu) to enclose a large tract of land enclosing Mbumba down south to Phirilongwe and Ntcheu District in the west and Dedza District in the north”.
According to Aipira, the book is his attempt to prevent the Dr-David-Livingstone-discovered-Lake-Malawi, for lack of a better word, dilemma.
“I have read books on historial, cultural, social and economic activities taking place in the Great Lift Valley region mostly written by Europeans out of personal interest or commissioned researchers whose tasks have been funded by international organisations such as research institutions, universities and governments.
“These international institutions set the agenda and parameters along which these researchers should operate and confine themselves in and the reporting too has to address and adhere to those benchmarks. With my inquisitive mind of wanting to learn more about the history, geography and the people of Nankumba Peninsula in order to increase my knowledge base, I have, as an indigenous Malawian of this area, discovered that the material I read was, by a large part, mostly written by foreigners,” he indicates.
The book starts on a biblical footing, starting with the story of creation, with the emphasis on all people being created in God’s image.
From there, it zooms in on Nankumba Peninsula people’s way of life, how one comes off age, the way orphaned children are taken care of— all this focusing on the branch of the Chewa introduced by the Nankumba Clan that settled in modern-day Mangochi District after travelling all the way from Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Of course, in evenings, Nankumba clan members no longer sit around dry wood fires to share stories about the past but, at least, they remain robustly hospitable.
It could as well be that Nankumba Peninsula Heritage Trail is the fire-of-ink they may sit around and read aloud; for, as they say, a book records a journey. That way, they will be connected to their past even as they navigate the present to sail to the future.
The only disconnect in the book is that, in introduction, Kamkwalala calls it Nankumba Peninsula Heritage Trail and Adventures when, in fact, and the final product Montfort Media printed and published is called Nankumba Peninsula Heritage Trail.
Like Nankumba Peninsula, which was a subject of oversight that has led to Aipira trying to fill it through his latest book, the Nankumba Peninsula Heritage Trail blip was just another case of oversight.
The Chinese say the leaf returns to the root of the tree; in Nankumba Peninsula Heritage Trail, Aipira has acted as the leaf that has gone back home.