Big celebration in Mua, Malawi.


15 BBy Landry Busagara, stagiaire in Mua.

Saturday on the 23rd September, Mua Parish was celebrating its 115 years of existence. Mua mission was established by three Missionaries of Africa in September 1902 and has since grown to have 25 churches and about 25 000 Christians. Moreover, it was the golden jubilee of priesthood of Father Claude Boucher who has been living in Mua for more than 40 years. The parish was also celebrating 25 years of service of one of its catechists: Abambo Simoni Panyani.

Many people came from different places to congratulate and share our joy. We were honoured by the presence of the Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, the Ambassador of Germany in Malawi, the Provincial of Southern Africa, the MPs, Chiefs, Priests, Sisters, brothers and parishioners who came in large numbers for the event.

The Eucharist was presided by the Bishop of Dedza Diocese, Bishop Emmanuele Kanyama. Time was given to present the amazing journey of Father Boucher Chisale, the founder of the Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art. It was a celebration to remember all the missionaries who contributed to the life of the Christian community over so many years. “Following that example of the bounty of God, said the Bishop, we are called to do the same, we need to love one another, to forget our ego and live together as brothers and sisters without conflicts and quarrels, and to be thankful to God and to the missionaries.

21 ABeing in Malawi for so long, Father Boucher, as he said, became a Malawian and happy to be so. His regret is to see how people are becoming careless about the environment and the culture. As a matter of fact, Father Claude, now 75 years old, has been working and doing research in anthropology and the local culture all his life. He wrote many books and received many awards for his tremendous achievement. He asked the Lord to grant him some more days to continue working in his vineyard.

Father Felix Phiri, our Provincial, expressed his joy and congratulated everyone. In his view, it is rare to see Missionaries of Africa celebrating 115 years of presence in the same parish. Usually, they start a parish and, after some time, move elsewhere. Father Claude Boucher should be a good example for all missionaries for his closeness to the people and his care for the nature and preserving the local culture.

The Vice President Saulos Chilima was also very happy to be present and thankful for the invitation. “We should not forget our beautiful culture in exchange with foreign ones. We were not supposed to wait for missionaries to teach us how to preserve our culture and traditions. We need to keep our identity. Nowadays, he continued, people are more aggressive towards the environment. We are more zealous in destroying than in building. The way we cut trees, the way we use water… and we do not realise that what we are doing will cause us problems in the future.” He also talked about demography in Malawi. If we do not pay attention on how we make children, it will be very hard in the years to come. We should give birth to children that we are capable of raising up.

Before the final blessing, the Bishop congratulated Father Claude Boucher who has sacrificed his whole life for others, caring for the nature, the culture, being one of the people. He asked us to take into consideration that good example.

Link: Mua Parish Celebration in Dedza diocese, Malawi.

September 2016 Kungoni Newsletter


kungoni-art-work-2016-03-blogFather Claude Boucher Chisale celebrated his 75th birthday on August 2, 2016. A week later, the Chamare festival commemorated the 40th anniversary of Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art. Various media houses such as TVM, Times newspaper, Zodiak radio, Luntha TV, Luso TV, were present. The theme of this year festival was the one proclaimed by Pope Francis for this year of mercy. A play was performed to emphasise that wealth is not the only value which one has to cherish. Malawi is very rich in spirituality that stress the importance of our common humanity. An incluturated Mass was celebrated where the homily was delivered by Father Kanyike, a Ugandan Comboni missionary. Other celebrants were Jos Kuppens, Claude Boucher, Kadzilawa and four diocesan priests from Dedza diocese.

See the September 2016 Kungoni Newsletter (Vol. 6, no 1) (12.3 Mo) for more news including Kungoni Artworks such as carvings for the South African embassy in Lilongwe, new fresco at Makakola retreat bar, Masanje paintings on canvas, Hippo view lodge commission carvings of Tchopa dancers. A special tribute is given too to Thomas Mpira, one of the most prominent artist of Kungoni.

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Coming Up – Open Day – 13th August 2016


Open Day 2008 28The proposed date for the Open Day at Mua, Malawi, is Saturday 13th August 2016.

The Open Day (also known as Chamare Day) is an annual celebration of the work of Kungoni Centre, which features the Kungoni Dance Troupe, dances contributed by people around the Mua area and a lot of Gule Wamkulu.

The culmination of the Open Day is a play, which this year will be inspired by the story of Kachirambe, who liberated his people by slaying the Pumpkin Monster.

Proceedings should start with an inculturated Mass at 8.30 a.m. and conclude mid-afternoon. 2016 is the fortieth anniversary of Kungoni Centre, so the Open Day will be especially memorable.

Report – Africa Day – 2016 – Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art, Mua Mission, MALAWI


June 21, 2016. On 20th May MultiChoice Malawi brought journalists from across Malawi to Kungoni Centre to celebrate Africa Day.

Father-ChisaleAlso in the Nation on 24th May: Thoughts from a retreat. By Yvonnie Sundu, May 24, 2016.

Claude Boucher Chisale, Visual Artist

Sam Banda JnrBy Sam Banda Jnr

It is on a Friday, MultiChoice Malawi has organised yet another annual trip for journalists to celebrate Africa Day which falls on May 25 every year. This is the annual commemoration on May 25, 1963 of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). On this day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

However, the trip has been organised much earlier on May 20 to give a chance to journalists to sensitise people about Africa Day. Just as MultiChoice has done every year, they have not told the journalists where they are taking them to having departed early in the morning in Blantyre. It turns out to be a long trip which takes us close to three hours and finally we arrive at Mua in Dedza. Such a quiet place and one would be compelled to think it a dull area.

Welcome to Mua Mission which also houses Kungoni Arts Centre of Culture and Art. The road to the place is not tarmac. But wait a minute, we are journalists from Blantyre and so as we arrived, we met fellow journalists from Lilongwe, what an exciting outing this is going to be.

We greet each other before being taken through the programme. What a trip, we are going to meet artist Claude Boucher Chisale, who founded Kungoni Centre in 1976.

There is a lot to learn here and Chisale tells us that there is so much but since this was a day’s trip, they would try as much to tell us more on the history of Kungoni which is built on the grounds of Mua Mission. Chisale speaks Chichewa fluently having come to Malawi in 1967 from Canada. He loves Africa and loves Malawi which is now his home and he is proud of it. When he was speaking, we all stayed quiet as he moved us with his story and that of Kungoni, telling us the beauty of Malawi and the beauty of preserving “our culture.”

And while many of us prefer going for holidays outside the country, there is a lot we are missing out and I would recommend many of you to take time out and visit Mua. It is a place that offers visitors a unique insight upon the cultural and artistic inheritance of Malawi and preserves for Malawians a treasure house of what is distinctive in the cultures of the Chewa, Ngoni and Yao people, who converge in the Mua area.

Back to A Chisale as he is fondly called, a lot has been said about him but for those of you who do not know his story, he was born in Canada in 1941. He followed in the steps of his maternal aunt to come to Malawi as a priest of the Missionaries of Africa (the White Fathers) in 1967.

Apart from brief periods of study in Uganda and London, he has remained in Malawi ever since.

“I love Malawi, this is my home. I am proud to be here,” said Chisale, when asked whether he does not have ambitions of going back to Canada. Chisale’s life work has been at Mua Mission, where he founded Kungoni.

According to him, the centre started as a cooperative for wood carvers and that over the years, it has grown to encompass the Chamare Museum (which holds important ethnographic collections on the Chewa, Yao and Ngoni peoples of Malawi). The centre also [comprises] the Kafufuku research library, Namalikhate lodge and Ku Mbewu (a women’s cooperative).

He said Kungoni has decorated churches throughout Malawi and elsewhere, as far afield as Kenya and Germany; and that example of its work, both religious and secular, are to be found in collections which include the Vatican Museums.

The priest, artist and anthropologist, took the name Chisale when he became one of the few non-Chewa to be initiated into Nyau, the secret society which is responsible for Gule Wamkulu.

He has sought over the 40 years of his work at Mua Mission to create dialogue and understanding where before there was hostility and suspicion. As a result, he has been granted unparalleled access to Chewa traditional access to Chewa traditional custom; and Chewa participants in Gule Wamkulu no longer feel themselves excluded from the life of the church.

“Religion and culture go together and this is why when I came I made sure I associated with the people who were deep rooted into culture. First you must understand that as people we have culture and then with it there is also religion,” he said with a little smile.

He has written several books and one of his extensive accounts of his life and work is his book When Animals Sing and Spirits Dance. This year Kungoni Arts is celebrating its 41st anniversary while Chisale is celebrating his 75th birthday.

“This country was given to us by our parents and so let’s preserve it, let’s treasure our culture and extract from it important elements which will help develop our country,” he said.

Chisale observes that many Malawians do not value their culture and that other wishes they were not born here. ‘We can do better, we have to thank God that we were born in Malawi and Africa. Africa is not poor and Malawi is not poor as others always put it. This is a rich nation with so much to treasure,” he said.

In his book When Animals Sing and Spirits Dance, Chisale tells us more about his 40 years encounter with Gule Wamkulu, the Great dance of the Chewa people of Malawi. Gule Wamkulu is an extraordinarily rich tradition, which United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognised as constituting part of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005.

Chisale said he understands it as the vehicle by which the ancestors return to the village to offer social commentary and advice to the living. Gule Wamkulu has a vast plethora of characters, both masked and concealed with structures, which we appreciated in the museum. He said Gule Wamkulu is an indispensable part of initiation and funeral rites and of ceremonies to commemorate the dead and that nowadays it is performed during cultural events and political gatherings.

Through the Kungoni Dance Troupe, journalists appreciated traditional dances from the Ngoni and Chewa which were held at a place known as Matako Apekesana. Throughout all the traditional dances which included Ngoma from the Ngoni and Gule Wamkulu, Chisale explained in detail why these traditional dances were performed as well as the different regalia’s worn.

“I am happy that MultiChoice thought of bringing journalists here as we look ahead to celebrating Africa Day. We have so much to share here and apart from that we also teach cultural courses and even art,” he said.

This was surely a good encounter with A Chisale, a man who has always valued culture and so why can’t we do the same?

Article about Kungoni Centre for Culture and Art published in the magazine The Eye, March – May 2016, Malawi.


Kungoni Theeye March 2016 01By Richard Hewitt, Kamuzu Academy

Later this year, on 2nd November, Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art will celebrate its fortieth anniversary. Mua Mission (between Salima and Balaka / Mangochi, just off the Lakeshore road), where Kungoni Centre is situated, dates further back, to 1902: its church, mission house, schools (including a deaf school) and hospital are significant institutions in their own right. However, it is Claude Boucher, now in his seventy-sixth year, and originally from Canada, who has made Mua distinctive among other religious missions in Malawi, and a necessary part of the itinerary of any visitor to Malawi with cultural and artistic interest.

Claude Boucher (himself an artist) attracted to Mua a number of artists (mostly carvers, but also painters and potters) to form what is now Kungoni Centre. The quality and invention of their work have won just renown, not only throughout Malawi but also across Africa and the world. It is in many styles: Christian and traditional (Chewa, Ngoni and Yao), offering not least a cheerful and satirical, sometime insightful, commentary on life in rural Malawi; but it is perhaps most stimulating to observe the attempt to translate ideas learned from missionaries into local idiom. Christ of the Kungoni Centre is definitely an African! The artists’ work is available for sale either at Kungoni Centre’s art gallery and showroom or at Lakeshore lodges and outlets in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Commissions are also accepted.

Kungoni Centre is famous also for the Chamare Museum, which must count among the most insightful ethnographic museums in southern Africa, and for its cultural troupe, which performs traditional dance not only for visitors to Kungoni Centre but as far afield as the Nc’wala Ceremony in Zambia. Last August Kungoni Centre came to national attention when, as part of its annual Open Day, it staged a play, incorporating Gule Wamkulu, which related the environmental devastation that is being worked in Malawi to the Chewa myth of creation. If you have not made the journey to Kungoni Centre, come to see what it has to offer; and be sure to spend a night at Namalikhate lodge, where the chalets are themselves works of art!

As Kungoni Centre began to reflect on forty years of achievement, it seemed right for a small body of friends to attempt the record of what will otherwise be lost together with its oral memory: we call this work the Kungoni Art Project. We have (thus far) collected the biographies of over 220 artists who have lived and worked at Kungoni Centre (incorporating often several generations of the same family); and have recorded some 3500 examples of their work throughout Malawi and in over twenty other countries. The variety of subject and approach is extraordinary, but time is running out! On the night of 15th November 2015 the church at Nyungwe (between Blantyre and Zomba) burned down: it was a fine example of Kungoni work dating back to the 1980’s; and it contained paintings by Claude Boucher and his (now deceased) collaborator P. Tambala Mponyani. It is fortunate that we had already recorded Nyungwe, but there is other work that is known only from old photographs or can be reconstructed only from Claude Boucher’s written notes and memory; and time, neglect and theft have all too often exacted their toll on what remains.

Our purpose is to create an archive of material, which will extend from Claude Boucher’s earliest artwork in his native Canada in the 1950’s, through his arrival in Malawi in 1967 and his encounter with the men who would become Kungoni Centre’s first artists, to the four decades of activity, each with their own emphases, that succeeded the establishment of Kungoni Centre in 1976.  CLICK HERE TO READ MORE – PDF FILE

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Kungoni Art Project – Malawi


KAP Website Front pageGreat CircumcisorThis is the first edition of the new website to preserve the record of Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art in Malawi. It is the hope of Richard Hewitt that it will offer some interest and pleasure.

See the first Newsletter of Kungoni Art Project 

See the letter of introduction of Father Claude Boucher Chisale

Picture: The Kungoni Art Project records this figure of Ngaliba, the Great Circumcisor of the Yao people of Malawi, by Thomas Mpira, which was commissioned for Sun’n’Sand Holiday Resort, Mangochi (2015). It stands before a frieze, also by Kungoni Centre, depicting the initiation ceremony.