Skip to main content

Malawi Writers Group

Identifier: Coll-1135

Scope and Contents

The collection is composed of copies of printed matter which includes:

  1. - 'The rain-maker', by Steve Chimombo - a play
  2. - 'African literature in English and the Malawi cultural background' by Steve Chimombo, 22 December 1974
  3. - 'The Muse', Thursday 13 November 1975, edited by Ken Lipenga - the bulletin of the Writers Workshop
  4. - circular of the Writers' Group CC/Eng/75/744. Short story and poems, including 'Another village requiem: Malawi' by Jack Mapanje, and 'Chisumphi sighed' by Steve Chimombo
  5. - circular of the Writers' Group CC/Eng/75/816. Short story and poems
  6. - circular of the Writers' Group CC/Eng/75/846. Short story and poems, including 'The hunted' by Swanzie Agnew
  7. - circular of the Writers' Group CC/Eng/76/881. Short story and poems, including 'The hounds' by Jack Mapanje
  8. - circular of the Writers' Group CC/Eng/76/897. Short stories and poems.
  9. - circular of the Writers' Group CC/Eng/76/903. Poems.

Other contributors to the circular of the Writers' Group include: Seleman Chamwenda; John Katsoka Duwa; Highton S. Gondwe; Tiyezge Gondwe; Rex Daniel Harawa; Mukakeni Kaliwo; Ken Lipenga; Kwaiyesa Mandala; Zondiwe Mbano; Felix Mnthali; Francis Moto; Richard Nyirenda Mulowoka; Namabetcha; (Anthony) Nasiri Namalomba; Anthony Nazombe; Don Whayo - Pungani; Peter Stewart; and, Irene Wirima.

The collection also includes a copy of an off-print, containing 'Three poems of Africa', from the University of Victoria'sMalahat review, No. 36. October 1975 (Canada). The poets are Stan Trevor, Steve Chimombo, and Linda Sandler. The Steve Chimombo work in the off-print isNapolo.

There is also a copy ofA candle in the nightwhich sets down the context, aims and work of the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED), and which is published by the International Student Conference (ISC) and the World University Service (WUS).

Several Writers' Group items in the collection have the name 'Professor Agnew' noted in ink, and the off-print of theMalahat reviewhas the name 'Swanzie' noted in ink. Swanzie, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1916-2000), born in Heidelberg in the Transvaal, had been Professor of Geography at the University of Malawi. 'Swanzie' means 'little swan' in Dutch/Afrikaans.


  • Creation: 1974-1976

Language of Materials


Biographical / Historical

The University of Malawi opened in 1964-1965 and the academic, poet, writer, journalist, essayist and publisher Professor Steve Bernard Miles Chimombo (b. 1945) had an association with it from 1972 until 2002 when he retired. Chimombo was among the original first known writers from Chancellor College at Zomba near Blantyre, part of the University of Malawi. He was involved in the creative writing magazineOdi. His work includes theNapolo Poemsand the playThe rain-maker.

Another early writer at Chancellor College was the poet Jack Mapanje (b. 1944) who had grown up in the newly independent Malawi under the dictatorship of Dr. Hastings Banda. He was a founding member of the Malawi Writers' Group (or Writers Workshop) which was formed in April 1970 in a deliberate attempt to build a Malawian written literature. The Group met weekly at the College and provided its members with a sympathetic audience for their own poems and stories. Through the groups’ gatherings they succeeded in avoiding the control of the official government censor. Though the Group was confined to Chancellor College, it attracted contributions from journalists, teachers and businessmen. The Group became the only forum in which Malawian affairs were freely discussed.

Mapanje became a Lecturer in English at the College in 1975, and he published his first collection of poems in London in 1981 -Of chameleons and gods. In 1987, by which time he had become Head of the Department of English, he was detained by police acting for Malawi Special Branch and remained in detention at Mikuyu Maximum Security Detention Centre for three and half years without trial. His poems inThe Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison(1993) were composed while he was imprisoned, as well as most of his third collection of poetry,Skipping without Ropes(1998). More recently he taught a degree course at the University of Leeds, 1993-96, in England, and has been teaching as a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle also in England.


1 folder

Physical Location


Literature of the Writers' Group, Chancellor College, University of Malawi - 1970s
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379