‘Living Legends’ is a memory project and an on-going project to film-tape testimonies of eyewitnesses on the last decades of political change in Malawi. In 2014, it became part of the permanent exhibition of the Cultural Museum Centre Karonga (CMCK) in northern Malawi, where visitors can watch selected video sequences of the interviews.
‘Orality’ facilitated the manipulation of history and tradition during Banda/MCP reign and left barely any historical documents. Until today this restricts a coherent review of the contemporary past. Besides some academic work, an access for the masses such as schoolbooks does not exist and if, popular cultural production provide only fragmented insights. This exhibition is unique in Malawi and intends to fill the gap by subjective memories.
‘Living Legends’ aims at shedding light on the nations history since the successful mass mobilization for Independence of Nyasaland in the 1950s. The country’s exceptional coalition with Apartheid-South Africa and pro-western position, policy disagreements and conflictive ideas on decision making processes, marked the break between Banda and the nationalist movement, which cumulated in the establishment of the thirty years’ repressive one-party rule from 1964. The culture of ‘orality politics’ was well established during Banda/MCP reign. It unfolded with the repression of academic, scholarly and poetic writings by the Censorship Board for thirty years. The forces of rumours increasingly shaped political culture in Malawi. Car accidents became a metaphor for the invisible power and political violence of the party system. The poet and scholar Jack Mapanje refers to the term ‘accidentalised‘ to document the creation of an oral culture on the removal of evidence, ‘carefully erased from files and memory’, on the crimes that have been committed towards individuals who bitterly experienced arrest, detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death.
panel discussion - from the left: Gertrud Rubadiri, Dr. Lipenga and Rose Chibambo
Photo: ©Stefan Schmid