Season 2 Episode 3

In the first episode of Season 2 which is focused on countries found in the Southern part of Africa, you were introduced to Malawi where some information about the country was given.

In today’s episode of Learn Africa, we’d be looking at some of the major tribes found in Malawi. These tribes or ethnic groups include:

  • Chewa
  • Lomwe
  • Yao
  • Ngoni
  • Tumboka
  • Nyanja
  • Tonga
  • Sena

We’d focus on four major tribes in Malawi were you’d get to learn some things about their history, their way of life and language spoken.


This is the largest ethnic group in Malawi which comprises of about 36% of the total population. The people from this tribe are known as Achewa and are from the Bantu group in Africa which is believed that they migrated from Nigeria and Cameroon, settled in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) before coming to Malawi.

The local language of the Chewa people is Chichewa which is the national language of Malawi.

The Chewa people are well known for their traditional and spiritual practices known as ‘Gule wa mkulu’ which is a dance for cult practices which is full of magical powers where masks are worn by people considered to be spirits.

The Phiri clan holds the kingship position while the Banda clan are known to be connected with mystics and healings. The Chewa people are guided by the Kalonga Gawa Undi who is the King.

They practice agriculture by cultivating crops such as millet, maize, vegetables, nuts and tobacco.


The people of Lomwe known as Alomwe are also a Bantu speaking ethnic group and make up 18% of the total population of Malawi constituting one of the largest ethnic groups in Malawi as they are the second largest tribe.

The native language of the Lomwe tribe is Chilomwe which is written using the Roman alphabet. Chilomwe is believed to be gradually fading out and is only been spoken mainly by the elders of the tribe while the younger ones are now speak Chichewa.

They are also specialized in farming activities, which is a major source of income for them.


The Wayao tribe of Malawi is the third largest ethnic group composing about 14% of the country’s population. They are also a Bantu ethic group that are concentrated at the Southern part of Lake Malawi, they practice Islam and their local language is Chiyao.

They are mostly subsistence farmers who traded with the Arabs from the Southeastern part of Africa and this is where they embraced Islam as a way of religious practice.


The Ngoni tribe of Malawi, also called Angoni, Abangoni, Wangoni or Mangoni are a part of the Bantu speaking ethnic group and constitute about 12% of the total population. The Ngoni people found in Malawi are as a result of the Zulu war in South Africa. They were led into Malawi by one of their chiefs, Zwangendaba and settled in Malawi.

Their native language is Chichewa, they practice subsistence activities such as agriculture, fishing and trading.

Written and edited by Ebenezer Oladokun

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