Article from ROAPE Volume 17 Number 48
Chameleons/Paramount Chiefs: Malawi Poet Jack Mapanje

Of Chameleons and Paramount Chiefs: The Case of the Malawian Poet Jack Mapanje
Vol.17 No.48 (Summer 1990), pp26-49
The poetry of Jack Mapanje is of undoubted literary merit. But it also warrants consideration for the manner in which it intertwines with and comments upon the political situation in Malawi. As with praise singers in the past, there is little space between cultural expression and political involvement in this case. If sometimes personal, Mapanje's poetry is more frequently public commentary, formed with consciousness of the oral tradition, of the poet speaking directly to an audience. It is not surprising, therefore, that Mapanje should be seen as a threat to the status quo, though tragic that his art has led to his confinement as a political prisoner. Vail and White describe the case of Mapanje, exploring the development of his poetry and of its place within the political context of contemporary Malawi.