A nineteenth-century Roman Catholic mission station that has spawned a museum of cultural history unsurpassed in the region and an organisation for marketing the incredibly imaginative and complex work of local carvers and sculptors.
Mua is just off the road between Salima and Balaka (the M5), about 50km south of Salima and just north of the junction with for Cape Maclear (the M10). The turning for the dirt road up to Mua is on your left if you are heading north (up the M5) and is signposted "Mua Parish".
- KuNgoni Centre of Culture and Art, +265 (0)9 511 884, (0)9 294 320, . Next to Mua Mission and a short walk from the village. KuNgoni offers visitors an excellent cultural museum with rooms about Chewa, Ngoni and Yao cultures as well as a history of Christianity in Malawi. Tours of the museum cost around $5 per person. There is a library / research centre on the cultures of Malawi, and KuNgoni run cultural courses and programmes for groups and individuals, which can include performances of traditional dances and songs. There is a gallery selling high-quality carvings and other art work from over 100 local artists. (Comprehensive information is on the website.)
- The church and mission buildings give an insight into the nature of the nineteenth-century missions to Africa.
- You can also explore the surrounding village, where you can be certain of a friendly welcome.
The museum is a little deceptive in that it packs a vast amount of material into a relatively small space. By the look of the buildings, you might think a couple of hours will be ample. But if you really want to undertsand the local cultures and their traditions, the best thing you can do anywhere in Malawi (or indeed most of southern Africa) is to spend a few days at Mua, and spend a couple of hours each morning and a couple each afternoon in the museum.
Most of the carvings and sculptures available in tourist shops in Malawi are made at Mua. While you are here, you can buy them at around half the price you would pay elsewhere –- and the money goes directly to the carvers. The range on display is only a fraction of what is available, so it is well worth asking for permission to spend some time sorting through the rooms full of work for that extra special something.
If there is something in particular that you would like carved, they also take commissions.
You can also buy books about Malawian culture here, including some on local cultures by the founder of the KuNgoni Museum, Claude Boucher.
Meals can be arranged for around $7.50 per person.
Chalet accommodation is available from KuNgoni for around $20 per night (including breakfast).