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Cotton cloths are a popular everyday item of clothing in Malawi and are produced in a wide variety of patterns and designs. They are also designed to mark social and political events, and are an important record of cultural history in Malawi.
David Whitehead & Son, Mapeto Factory
Commemorate a series of political events featuring the former President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika
Did you know?
National Museums Scotland has a range of Malawian commemorative cloths in its collection including a design produced in 2009 to mark 150 years since the founding of the Presbyterian Church in Blantyre by Dr David Livingstone.
Most of this type of cotton cloth, known as chitenje, is manufactured locally at the David Whitehead & Son Mapeto factory, in Blantyre. The colourful cloth is usually sold in two metre lengths and either worn wrapped around the body or sewn into outfits, like blouses, skirts and headscarves. It is also commonly used as a carrier, often by mothers supporting babies across their backs.
Because the chitenje is used so widely in Malawi it is a useful vehicle for all kinds of promotion and advertising. The range of designs is constantly changing, and can include anything from the commemoration of annual events like Christmas, to cloths showing church membership.
Bingu wa Mutharika (1934-2012) was the President of Malawi from 2004 until his death in 2012. He began as a leader of the United Democratic Front, but in 2005 he formed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
This cloth celebrates the appointment of President Bingu wa Mutharika as the Chairman of the African Union in 2010. The African Union is an organization that promotes the interaction and cooperation of the 54 nations of Africa. President Bingu wa Mutharika’s portrait, unchanged from the presidential campaign cloth, has been placed in the outline of the African continent.
President Bingu wa Mutharika died in office in 2012, at the age of 78, leaving a controversial legacy following nationwide protests, shortages, rising prices and unemployment. Despite the unstable economy, over 50,000 metres of funeral cloth were distributed free to Malawians at a cost to the government of over $125,000.
The cloth displayed does not in any way indicate political views of National Museums Scotland, and we intend to continue to collect cloth to represent all political parties in Malawi.