The Chiwaya War: Malawians In The First World War

TitleThe Chiwaya War: Malawians In The First World War
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsPage, Melvin
Number of Pages296
PublisherWestview Press
CityBoulder, CO

When World War I came to the British Protectorate of Nyasaland, Africans called it the Chiwaya War, from a Chichewa word meaning a “potsherd used for roasting grain.” Malawians first used the word to describe military mess tins. When they later discovered that grain roasted on the tins made a distinct popping sound, they began using the term to describe the noise of machine guns rattling around them. Gradually, chiwaya became associated with the war itself, the conflict’s new military technology, and the effects of the war, which seemed to be everywhere, like the sudden scattering in all directions of the popping maize. This is the fascinating story of how most of the adult male population of Malawi was pulled, for the most part unwillingly, into the horrors of a modern war. Melvin Page not only examines the recruitment and military service of Malawian askari (soldiers) and tenga-tenga (military laborers) but also considers the impact of wartime experience on all facets of Malawian life. The Chiwaya War became the nation’s first truly national experience, and as such was a watershed in Malawian history. 

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