Makewana’s Daughters is a group that was born, literally, on the steps of the Chancellor College library on a beautiful sunny afternoon in December 2014.
We know it was sunny because the three women who thought of the concept, Dr. Hendrina Kachapila-Mazizwa (History Department, University of Malawi), Dr. Ranka Primorac ( Department of English, University of Southampton), and Dr. Timwa Lipenga (French Department, Chancellor College) were sitting on those steps, enjoying the view. Then all of a sudden, the discussion became serious; it was no longer about the lush pine trees on the side of the library steps. It was about the fact that there was not much to be seen when it came to creative writing by Malawian women. The question was, why were we not writing? What had happened? There had been a time when there were a few names here and there, but since then, what had happened?
We would later discover that Malawian women were still writing, and they are still writing. The fact remains, however, that they have not written as much as the men have done. There were also some women who later said, ‘Oh, we write but publishing opportunities are so difficult to find. We write our work and we keep it, because we do not know where to send it to. ’
Now, we do not have the solution to the different challenges that Malawian women face in their writing, but one thing that we do offer is a forum for the different poems, short stories and narratives that Malawian women would like to share. We regret that we are currently not in a position to pay for those submissions. However, in December this year, we will run a short story writing competition to encourage writing by Malawian women. The details of the competition will be announced in our e-magazine (Makewana Mag) on this website soon, but we have a team of judges in place, headed by Professor Mpalive Msiska (Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck University). Other members of the panel of judges include Dr. Naomi Msusa (University of Cape Town), Ms. Hilda Twongyeirwe (Femrite Uganda), Hon. Dr. Jessie Kabwila (on leave, University of Malawi), Mrs. Stella Ndau (on leave, University of Malawi), Ms. Asante Mtenje (currently studying for a PhD, University of Stellenbosch), Dr. Ken Lipenga Jr (Department of English, University of Malawi) and Mr Stanley Onjezani Kenani (poet and short story writer, Caine Prize nominee, currently based in Switzerland).
How did we come up with the name Makewana’s Daughters? We were thinking about Malawi’s history, and the leadership role played by rainmakers in the past. We thought of Makewana, who was one of the well-known female rainmakers as early as the 18th century, and of how those who came after her were also known as Makewana. And then we also thought about Dr. Jessie Sagawa’s thesis, ‘Daughters of Makewana: A critical and contextual study of women in selected Malawian novels in English.’ We just could not resist that urge to make connections between creation and creativity, and we felt that the rainmaker’s proactive image would be inspirational to women seeking to put an end to a literary drought.
Our patron is Dr. Jessie Sagawa (University of New Brunswick). We also have the following team members; Mrs Esela Munthali, Ms. Dinah Katonda (Department of History, University of Malawi) and Ms Evelyn Maseko (TRS and French Departments, University of Malawi), Mr Rodney Likaku (Department of English, University of Malawi) and Dr. Emmanuel Ngwira (Department of English, University of Malawi). In fact, Dr. Ngwira came up with what we think is an appropriate name for the men in the group; Makewana’s Daughters’ brothers.
Unlike Makewana, we cannot promise you rain. What we can promise you is a website that will be dedicated to narrative (fictional and nonfictional), that will give you news of what is happening elsewhere in the literary world. We ask you to grow with us as we undertake different journeys, including those to primary and secondary schools in the country, holding workshops about the importance of writing. We ask you to see this as your website, your forum, and to feel free to share your work with us. One thing you can be sure of: words will rain and reign!
Coordinating team: Hendrina, Ranka and Timwa