Gondwe Family History, the Present, and the Future
Article by Eric Gondwe
General oral tradition and historical name mapping of the Gondwe lineage or clan indicates that the clan’s name originated in Rumphi district of northern Malawi. Mzimba district is also among the secondary references of the clan’s origins.
Where exactly in Rumphi district?
Many say it’s either in Rumphi village or in Luzi village. On a percentage level there are likely more Gondwes who live in or trace their decent from Luzi, than from Rumphi.
Are Gondwes of today from these areas?
Gondwes of today are centuries past these historical origins. Like for all other clans or family lines that have grown over centuries, Gondwes of today largely identify themselves with the location their parents came from or where their parents opt to identify their origins from.
For example, some Gondwes from Mzimba district in northern Malawi may have parents who identify Mzimba as their origin, while others may have parents who identify their origins outside Mzimba, like from Rhumpi or even from eastern Zambia (mostly Lundazi district).
Similarly some Gondwes from Lundazi district in eastern Zambia may have parents who identify Lundazi as their origin, while others may have parents who identify their origins outside Lundazi, like from Chama (further north of Lundazi) or even from Malawi’s northern areas (mostly Rumphi and Mzimba districts).
This has created a complex web that only each family understands well. For instance, one Gondwe family may say “our parents’ village is Chama, Eastern Province (Zambia) but we we’re originally from Kazuni (in Rumphi district, northern Malawi).” The parents and grandparents may be fully Zambian born yet the family chooses to identify itself with origins where it considers its ancestral roots belong. Such dialogue of identification is usually among Gondwes themselves or with close relatives who would be interested to know.
Thus it’s usually for identification purposes rather than for patronage reasons, and usually among ourselves or our close relatives. Traditionally when fellow Gondwes came across each other a major question asked was “which Gondwe are you?” Then the endless chatter would ensue as both parties got the pleasure of meeting a “mwana wakwitu” (child from our home (i.e. someone considered part of an inner circle whether by family, by village, by tongue, by region, by country, etc).
What is the future of the Gondwe lineage?
In our modern times of industrialization with busy lives the dialogue shared is as brief as possible when each “mwana wakwitu” meets another. For example, through Facebook I’ve had the privilege of meeting almost a thousand fellow Gondwes. This was made possible through managing Facebook accounts for countries where Gondwes are from or mostly live in: Malawi, Zambia, and South Africa. In almost all instances the acquaintance didn’t go beyond adding each other’s Facebook accounts.
The time for lengthy dialogue is almost nonexistent in spite of having far more communication gadgets to communicate than our parents did. Thus while modern technology has brought more communication avenues it has also brought a new lifestyle which has taken away the opportunity needed to have meaningful communication. Our time is eaten up by our careers, our family obligations, plus the various media and entertainment “toys” (back then just having a radio was a luxury), gym time (back their outdoor lives gave them the exercise), and so on.
Needless to say that there are many other reasons. For instance we’ve multiplied hundreds of times more than the number of Gondwes in our parents’ times. Bonding as a close network was a way of survival, particularly if they lived away from original villages -which most did. In our time bonding is largely a way of honoring family ties than for survival or economic reasons
And as we continue multiplying hundreds of times more we’ll eventually reach a level were having a Gondwe name will cease being a family identification. The passion or bond that we share the same roots will diminish, unless among those close enough to share this bond.
Previously just meeting a Gondwe made the two related and they easily started calling each other as brother, sister, cousin, and so on. This was more often the case if they met in a far of land, like in South Africa or a region they did not have family ties to bond with. In our time this may still occur here and there but in a far more rare way than during our parents’ time. For instance how many Gondwes living as far as UK (Britain) have gotten to establish a family bond simply because of sharing the same family name?
We’re thus evolving, just like all other clans that once easily identified each other or easily bonded simply because of sharing the same family name. For example, the Phiri and Banda names now run across many tongues and borders from Tanzania all the way to South Africa. The bonding may only exist among those that share identifiable roots. Otherwise sharing the same name just gives them something to smile about, no more. There are even many Phiris and Bandas who’ve married those with similar names -obviously after ensuring they did not share a biological lineage.
If we can see where other larger names have evolved into it could help us to work out a way in which we preserve as much as we can what is worth preserving. I believe preserving our parents’ origins is one of those essentials worth preserving. When I was young being told of my parents’ village was boring, backward, and every bad lable you can think of. From my mid twenties onwards it’s something that I treasured. Visiting my village after city life was like finding myself in a deeper way. It was very spiritual.
Not only does this just benefit us individually and our children (when they’re old enough to appreciate it), preserving our parents’ origins also helps us to sustain the bond we share as Gondwes, especially if our villages are similar or close enough. It will also avoid a Gondwe marrying a close relative -when that time comes that Gondwes are too large to trace each other’s lineage. That time may already be on our doorstep among our younger generation -those born in the 1990’s.
What major avenues are available to foster unity?
With the advent of the internet it’s now way easier than before to network with each other. If we strive to overcome the obstacles of having busy lives we can stay interconnected -as much as possible.
This website was created for this purpose of promoting unity. However there are more suitable avenues of actively sharing and fostering unity. Currently the main one is through Facebook. We have two major groups for Gondwes on Facebook that are worth joining. Please click on the following link to join one or both of them (and other social networks listed): Gondwe & Country Social Networks.
Your contributions, understanding and comments to enhance this article are most welcome and appreciated. If you have your own article on this topic and would like to share it please send it via email. The following is a link to contact us: Contact Gondwe Community.