Lake lore: a study of lacustrine artistic representations in the Malawian imaginary

By Ken Junior Lipenga

Lake Malawi, with its flora and fauna, exists as a pervasive presence in the collective creative imaginary of Malawian artists. This is evident through the presence of the lake as a feature in poetry, painting, and the novel among various genres. In this paper, the central position that is being advanced is that the lake does not only feature as an image, but also exists as a paradoxical symbolic element, where the water stands as a life-giving force, and simultaneously a sign for hope from the poverty that has for a long time plagued the nation, but also exists as a destructive force, one which bears the power to destroy the very same lives it sustains. The lake stands as a central motif around which various narratives – depressing and hopeful – are constructed. This paper purports to examine the various ways in which this image is employed by various artists across different genres, as a way of further illustrating the versatility of the Malawian creative mind. The decision to discuss different genres is deliberate, as it helps in illustrating the common features of lacustrine imagery, but also distinguishes the unique features particular to specific genres or the artists practicing therein.

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