Mua Mission and Kungoni Centre
The Mua Mission was founded by Catholic White Fathers in September 1902. It is located in Mua, a village in the Dedza district, about 60km from Salima. It is easily accessible both from Lilongwe (two hours) and Blantyre (three hours) by car. The first church was finished in 1905 and opened at Christmas. The red-brick beautiful church which is used today was established in 1971 on the same ground, and a lot of things of the old church have been adopted.
The mission is now one of the main attractions of Central Malawi, largely because of the Kungoni Centre of Culture and Arts on the site of the Mua Mission. The Kungoni Centre was established by a Canadian, Father Claude Boucher Chisale in 1976. It was set up as a project of giving the local carvers training in a variety of artistic forms with the intention of improving local incomes. Visitors can watch the talented artists go to work on blocks of wood, carving them into exquisite sculptures. The artworks are displayed for sale in the shop alongside Kungoni Centre, and also sold at shops everywhere in the country. It is even possible to find some of the Kungoni carvings across the world including in the Vatican museum and in the Buckingham Palace.
Chamare Museum was established on the ground of the Kungoni Centre in 2012 and is beautifully decorated with vibrant murals depicting scenes from Malawian history. Its three rooms concentrate on the three main tribal groups (Chewa, Ngoni and Yao) which meet in the Mua area, with over 400 Gule Wamkulu masks. A guide is included in the entrance fee. The short version takes about an hour and a longer one with more explanation is available.
Besides the carvings and Chamere Museum, the Kungoni Centre has also developed various culture sectors. For people with a genuine interest in learning more about Malawian history and culture, there’s the Kafukufuku Research Centre where you can delve into a collection of research papers, videos of dances and ceremonies, photographs and slides and over 1000 books. The centre also runs culture courses on Malawian history, art and language.
A programme of cultural dances is available on request. This presents a selection of traditional songs and dances from the Chewa, Ngoni and Yao cultures, performed in traditional regalia. The origins of each dance are interpreted for the audience.
The Kungoni Art Gallery was opened in 2009 to showcase a representative collection of Kungoni woodcarvings and other artwork such as painting and embroidery. Kumbewu (The Seed) Centre was established to provide a forum for the women of the Mua area to produce their own arts and crafts and to engage in activities that include adult literacy classes, agricultural diversification and HIV/AIDS awareness.
Namalikhate Village provides accommodation, dining and conference facilities to visitors to Kungoni Centre. It overlooks the Nadzipokwe River and is located a short distance from the Chamare Museum.
Getting there and away
Mua Mission lies 1km west of the M5 between Salima and Blantyre, 60km south of Salima, 100km north of Balaka and 20km north of the junctions with the newly surfaced S127 to Dedza and Lilongwe. The dirt turn-off to the mission is clearly signposted ‘Mua Parish’. There is plenty of public transport along the M5 but not to the mission itself.