About 100 Km southeast of Lilongwe, on the main road to Blantyre, is Dedza, a community that most visitors to Malawi have never heard of!
It’s surprisingly high [1,700m (5,000ft)] and the climate is pleasantly temperate and fresh, making it an ideal first stop in Malawi. The country here consists of rolling grasslands interspersed with mountain ranges and isolated rocky outcrops; pockets of indigenous forest tucked into gullies provide a varied habitat for wildlife and it all combines to make an enchanting landscape.
Within Dedza District are found the Dedza Pottery and the Chongoni rock paintings which is a World Heritage site.
The workshop at the pottery specialises in figurines that illustrate Malawian life, including people at work and making music, minibuses and trucks. They will even accept commissions and make your own vehicle out of pottery!
There is a coffee shop, numerous eating houses and a range of accommodation, including a good campsite. The shop is open from 7am to 5.30pm every day.
Chongoni Rock Art
The Chongoni Rock Art is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes the richest concentration of African Rock Art in central Africa with 127 rock-painting locations including:-
- The red schematic paintings of various geometric patterns which could be 3,500 years old and are thought to have been made by the hunter-gatherer Ba-Twa pygmies who inhabited the area before the Bantu migrations.
- The white paintings are mainly of animals or mythical animal-like figures which represent spirits and are used in current Nyau dance. These could be quite recent, as a depiction of a car suggests! A unique aspect of the paintings is that a high proportion are known to have been made by women. The sites remain important to local culture and rituals and dances are still performed here.
Three of the sites are open to the public – Chentcherere, Namzeze and Mphunzi.
There is also a good workshop for local women’s groups to make and sell crafts.
The Chentcherere and Namzeze Rock Art sites are not marked and visitors will need a local guide to find them. Reaching the sites also involves an uphill walk on a steep, uneven tack for which appropriate footwear is needed.