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Faces of Africa > Program Video

Faces of Africa 04/05/2015 Malawi's hidden treasure

CCTV.com

04-05-2015 18:48 BJT

Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It has a rich cultural heritage dating back to over two million years. It has unique artifacts, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Some of the treasures in Malawi include historical rock paintings, the two and a half million old hominid jaw bone, Stone Age implements dating back to over two hundred and fifty thousand years or older much of it lying unscathed beneath the earth. The archaeological world has regarded Malawi as an important corridor between the cradles of mankind in South and East Africa. But due to lack of resources and public appreciation, much of this unique heritage is at risk of being overlooked or uncared for. 

“Apart from that there is the challenge of expertise. There are only eight people who are experts in different fields. This is a small number,” told Moses Mkumpha – Malawian conservator.

Moses Mkumpha. He is the only cultural conservator in Malawi.

Moses Mkumpha. He is the only cultural conservator in Malawi.

Moses Mkumpha is Malawi's only trained cultural conservator in the last 20 years. He faces a myriad of challenges in protecting Malawi's hidden treasures but he's determined to protect them.

“My vision for the future is that we preserve our heritage, we preserve our legacy for the common good of the humankind,” told Moses.

Moses never thought he would ever become a conservator. He used to be a high school biology teacher. 

Some of the treasures found in Malawi.

Some of the treasures found in Malawi.

“I became interested in becoming a conservator after looking at an advert in the news. I just applied. I was just trying. They were looking for someone who had done biology. I just became interested by chance. From that day I started learning more about it and it has become life to me now,” told Moses.

A two and a half million old hominid jaw bone found in the country.

A two and a half million old hominid jaw bone found in the country.

He did a crash course in cultural conservation in the United States of America; he returned to Malawi and became the country’s first conservator. Moses’ responsibility is overwhelming with few resources at his disposal. He single handedly curates and takes care of these treasures, many spread across the country. This small country of over fifteen million people has high illiteracy rate. The general populace is oblivious of the existence and the importance of their country’s treasures. At one point during the production of this story, Moses happened to meet a group of young men in Mangochi, a Southern Region in Malawi carrying poles and sign boards from one of historical sites. Mangochi played a big role in the slavery trade in Malawi during the colonial times. The young men were quite oblivious about the importance of such materials; all they wanted was to get some money from selling them. 

“That place reminds us of our participation in the slave trade and the horrors that the people in Mangochi suffered,” told Moses. Like in many other African countries, strong men and women of Mangochi were yoked in chains and taken to the coast where they were sold. Moses has taken on educating students in schools about their rich cultural heritage and the importance of preserving it. This way he believes the younger generation will be interested in learning about their traditions and their heritage and in the long run help preserve it for future generations.  “I will be happy if we achieve that,” he said.

Moses pointing to some of the country

Moses pointing to some of the country's rock paintings.

Moses confronting a young man who had stolen some materials from one of the historical sites in Mangochi, a Southern region in Malawi.

Moses confronting a young man who had stolen some materials from one of the historical sites in Mangochi, a Southern region in Malawi.


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