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So beautiful are the tongues

Alfred Msdala is a poet, critic, and currently the chairperson of PEN Malawi. During his term as chairperson, PEN Malawi has established a translation committee with the aim of translating important information material about equality, entrepreneurship, climate change, and health issues into Chichewa, one of the country’s main languages. As it now stands, most of the official information in Malawi is available only in English. Here we publish a poem by Msdala where he praises language diversity in Malawi.

Credits Text: Alfred Msadala October 25 2019

So beautiful are the tongues

In our land beautifully are we
segmented from north to south
distinct with own tongues as we
identify ourselves in enriched communities
in a model Babel. Our unanimity manifests it
all as we sing melodiously in
tongues of our homes, all linked up
and connected to the Bantu stalk:
upon listening to this one, in Chichewa
and this other one, Chiyao; that
one over there, Chitumbuka. How
about this one, on my left? Chilhomwe.
With Chingoni, rightly amidst us.
So diverse and rich, pleasurable and amusing
for the betterment of heritage
in tongues of our mothers,
only marred by the deficiency of support
of the powers that be: an inhibited agenda
that propels backwards.

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