Original Research

Reading protest and myth in Malawian literature: 1964–1990s

Fetson Kalua
Literator | Vol 37, No 1 | a1255 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i1.1255 | © 2016 Fetson Kalua | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 November 2015 | Published: 26 September 2016

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Fetson Kalua, Department of English Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Following Malawi’s attainment of independence from the British rule in 1964, its citizens endured more than three decades of highly autocratic rule under Dr Hastings Banda. Remarkably, this period also exemplified the flowering of Malawian literature, a literature in which a new generation of writers demonstrated their intense engagement with politics in their work by taking a swipe at Dr Banda’s tyrannical rule. Using postcolonial theory as a lens for cultural analysis, this article examines the work of selected Malawian writers whose main focus was to pinpoint how Malawi had found itself in the grip of the kind of political malaise that left its populace in a state of great despair and hopelessness. To that end, the article examines literary works by Malawian writers, notably Legson Kayira, Frank Chipasula, Felix Mnthali, Jack Mapanje and Steve Chimombo, in order to demonstrate the ambivalence of cultural identity rendered visible in these works through the personal fears, anxieties and frustrations of living in an era of such repressive politics and political heavyhandedness. Thus the writers of this particular generation produced the kind of texts which reflected and gave voice to the pain, unease and the malaise attendant on this postcolonial state, and the concomitant identity crises such pain brings about in a people. The argument of the article is that, for Malawi, the unfortunate state of politics engendered a cultural identity that was confusing and confused at best, and this found expression in the works being examined.

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