A New Literary Genre for Malawi

Launch of Fiedler Festschrift: Rhodian Munyenyembe, Jonathan Nkhoma, Hany Longwe, Isabel Apawo Phiri, Klaus Fiedler, Garton Kamchedzera

It has been our custom at ZTU to launch our Research Seminar at the start of each semester with a book launch. Happily, we were able to observe this custom on Wednesday with the launch of Mission in Malawi: Essays in Honour of Klaus Fiedler.

Little did we know when Klaus came to stay in our home during the last months of 1992 that we were witnessing the beginning of a remarkable academic career in Malawi. During the subsequent years Klaus has supervised the postgraduate work of some 50 students, many of whom are now in senior positions in higher education.

Three of them, Jonathan Nkhoma, Rhodian Munyenyembe and Hany Longwe, combined to prepare a festschrift in honour of their old Professor. The result is a formidable volume, with 24 substantial chapters filling almost 600 pages. It was a moving and academically stimulating occasion to witness the book being presented to Klaus, with critical reviews from longtime colleagues Isabel Apawo Phiri and Garton Kamchedzera.

It was also a first in Malawi since, so far as we know, there has never before been a festschrift published in this country. With its origins in Germany, the idea of a festschrift has gained wide currency in the English-speaking world too. When colleagues want to pay tribute to a scholar who has made a distinguished contribution to their field, they come together to collect a set of essays that are relevant to the scholar’s work and offering some new insights – as a way of expressing their appreciation.

Until now, the idea has not taken root in Malawi. We have to remember that the formal academy is relatively new here. At independence in 1964 Malawi hardly had any graduates. So the first generation of academics were training in the late 1960s and 1970s and it is only in recent years that they have been completing their careers. Some of these pioneers have made an outstanding contribution – let’s hope that more of them will be celebrated with the publication of a festschrift in their honour.

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