Norwich-Dedza Partnership. Chongoni Rock Art Information Centre Malawi

Location: Malawi

Subject: Archaeology

Dates: 2011

Related ACE Cultural Tours:

Mission/Vision

The Norwich-Dedza Partnership promotes links for organisations and individuals in and around Norwich to assist the development of the District of Dedza in Malawi.

Project History

The Chongoni Rock Art Site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006. 127 separate rock art locations have been identified in the area, making it the richest concentration of rock art in central Africa. The paintings belong to four important and rare traditions-two made by Chewa farmers and two by the hunter-gatherer Ba-Twa pygmies.

The Chewa were among Africa’s last rock painters, continuing into the 20th Century. Their descendants, farming the land around the forest reserve, take pride in the art and understand many of the symbols. Some of the sites are still used today for ceremonies that preserve the ancient societal values, including girls’ coming of age rituals and men’s secret societies that organise funerals and care of the ancestors.

The Ba-Twa occupied the area some 3500 years ago. Their rock art is one of the few examples in the world that is composed of geometric designs rather than images of humans and animals. This is thinly spread across central Africa and the Chongoni has many of the finest examples.

The Malawi Government’s Department of Antiquities is creating an information centre in the grounds of Malawi College of Forestry and Wildlife, within the Chongoni Forest reserve to tell visitors about the rock art. There will also be a workshop for local people to make and sell crafts to visitors. Not only will this boost valuable income through tourism to the area, the information centre will also provide a base for further studies of the rock art by researchers from institutions across the world. The centre will also provide a resource for educating local people, especially children, on the importance and value of the cultural heritage of the rock art.

Project & ACE

The ACE Foundation are supporting the Norwich-Dedza Partnership who are assisting by preparing the display boards for the centre. MA Museology students at the UEA, under the guidance of Prof John Mack, are researching information about the rock art and preparing text and pictures for the boards. Volunteers from staff of the Norfolk Museums Service and a graphic designer, Jo Osborne, will design and prepare the art work for printing. The boards will be taken to Dedza by visitors going in the summer.