Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It has a rich cultural heritage dating back
to over two million years. It has unique artifacts, some of which cannot be found anywhere
else in the world. Some of the treasures in Malawi include historical rock paintings, the two
and a half million old hominid jaw bone, Stone Age implements dating back to over two
hundred and fifty thousand years or older much of it lying unscathed beneath the earth. The
archaeological world has regarded Malawi as an important corridor between the cradles of
mankind in South and East Africa. But due to lack of resources and public appreciation, much
of this unique heritage is at risk of being overlooked or un-cared for.
“Apart from that there is the challenge of expertise. There are only eight people who are
experts in different fields. This is a small number,” told Moses Mkumpha – Malawian
Moses Mkumpha is Malawi’s only trained cultural conservator in the last 20 years.
“My vision for the future is that we preserve our heritage, we preserve our legacy for the
common good of the humankind,” told Moses.
Moses never thought he would ever become a conservator. He used to be a high school
“I became interested in becoming a conservator after looking at an advert in the news. I just
applied. I was just trying. They were looking for someone who had done biology. I just
became interested by chance. From that day I started learning more about it and it has
become life to me now,” told Moses.
He did a crash course in cultural conservation in the United States of America and upon his
return to Malawi he became the country’s first conservator.
Moses’ responsibility is overwhelming with few resources at his disposal. He single handedly
curates and takes care of these treasures, many spread across the country. This small
country of over fifteen million people has high illiteracy rate. The general populace is
oblivious of the existence and the importance of their country’s treasures. At one point
during the production of this story, Moses happened to meet a group of young men carrying
poles and sign boards from one of the historical sites, Mangochi, a Southern Region in
Mangochi played a big role in the slavery trade in Malawi during the colonial times. The
young men were quite oblivious about the importance of such materials; all they wanted
was to get some money from selling them.
“That place reminds us of our participation in the slave trade and the horrors that the
people in Mangochi suffered,” told Moses.
Like in many African countries, strong men and women of Mangochi were yoked in chains
and taken to the coast where they were sold.
Moses has taken on educating students in schools about their rich cultural heritage and the
importance of preserving it. This way he believes the younger generation will be interested
in learning about their traditions and their heritage and in the long run help preserve it for
future generations. “I will be happy if we achieve that,” he said.