In 2012 the reserve bank of Malawi introduced new faces on the Malawian Kwacha notes. Amongst them a very beautiful woman. Her face was on the new two hundred Kwacha note. Rose Chibambo was her name. Now I remember the first time I saw this woman…. I was with my cousin on a veranda sharing some stories when a friend came to brag about how he had each note of the new Malawian kwacha notes and how true it was that each note had a different face on it. And I remember us asking ourselves what these people had done to deserve these spots in history. What had this woman called Rose Chibambo done to deserve such an honor? Most importantly, who was she?
Fast forward to October 2019, I discovered from social media that a book about her life was to be published later in the year. I got excited. Because finally I was going to have a chance to read the story behind Two hundred (as she was nicknamed). You can imagine my excitement when at Feminart Arts and Book Festival I got talking with the publisher and upon learning that I am a book obsessed blogger, he promised to send me a free copy of a book for an honest review.
As we celebrate John Chilembwe, a symbol of our fight for freedom, what better way to commemorate this day than to bring you a review of the book on the life of someone who followed in his shoes. Someone who carried the torch and continued fighting for our liberation, after veterans like Chilembwe were no longer here to continue fighting. Someone whose story remained untold, until now.
Title: Lomathinda: Rose Chibambo speaks
Author: Timwa Lipenga
Publication date: December 16, 2019
In this book Rose Chibambo, the woman on the MK200 note shares her life story, from surviving a difficult birth to forging a women’s movement. In a series of intimate conversations with Malawian scholar Timwa Lipenga, Chibambo traces the origins of her family, her culture, her commitment to building a post-colonial nation—and the heavy price she paid for it. Lipenga set out to interview Chibambo as part of a project focusing on untold stories of Malawian women. Lipenga said, “The more I learnt about Rose Chibambo, the more I was stunned that I had not come across her name even though I studied Malawian history as an undergraduate. Who was she?
As soon as I got my hands on this book, I dived right in and I am glad that I did. As the title of the book suggest, this book tell the story of the life of Rose Chibambo, told in her own words. More than anything, this book is a chance to sit in and participate in the conversation between Timwa and Rose, as Rose tells it as she experienced it. Going as far back as her birth, this book covers her whole life. From enjoying village life as a young girl being raised in a Ngoni culture, to her school days, to finding the love of her life, founding a woman’s movement against the colonial rule, being in prison and fleeing into exile and eventually being recognized for her role in obtaining freedom. This book offers us an opportunity to appreciate the life that this woman lived.
I enjoyed listening as Rose spoke through the pages of this book, so much so that this book was on this list of five books by African writer that i enjoyed reading in 2019. So much so that I have come up with five reasons why you read the book for yourself.
Five reasons why you should read Lomathinda: Rose Chibambo speaks
A chance to learn the untold stories of our heroes
Recall when I shared of my first time learning about Rose and how I had no idea of who she was? It just shows how stories about important people in our history remain untold. When we hear of the fight for independence, most of us think of John Chilembwe, we think of Kamuzu but these people did not fight alone. These people are not the only ones who sacrificed for this country. Alongside them were people like Chibambo, people who sacrificed so much that she was imprisoned a day after giving birth (and she had to raise her son in prison). And it’s not only her, there are other people who also fought alongside her. These untold stories are finally told in this book. So reading this book is a chance to learn the untold stories of our heroes.
There is a beautiful love story
Because I appreciate a good love story, this also had to be another reason why you need to read this book. The story of how Chibambo met and fell in love with her husband is what movies are made of. Now, I don’t want to give out details (you will have to read the book to get them), but what would you call finding someone who is so free in loving you and who is so supportive that he follows you into exile? Are you are a romantic and enjoy beautiful love stories? You really need to read this book.
Offers a new understanding to the Malawian hero Hasting Kamuzu
If you are anything like me, then all you know about Kamuzu is what you read from history books and what your parents or grandparents told you about the man. Now as much as these sources give us a glimpse of the kind of man he was, nothing beats hearing about it from the mouth of someone who interacted with the old man as she served as a minister. This book is an opportunity for you to get a closer look at the man who was the first president of this nation. And I guarantee you, what you will learn about the man in this book will challenge what you thought you knew about him.
You will have a good laugh
Right from the first chapter of this book, Chibambo kept me laughing. Even though I have never met her, I can confidently tell you that she had a great sense of humor. I could tell she appreciated a good laugh, and it seeped through the pages until she had me (the reader) laughing along with her. Considering the things she went through, that she was still able to laugh so freely is something of a treasure. And I don’t think you should miss this chance to enjoy Rose’s unique and contagious sense of humor
You will be inspired
Most importantly, this book is an inspiration. Rose was fierce, frankly put. She learnt early on in life how to thrive in male dominated spaces. From being the only girl in class whilst in Class 4, to being the only woman in political spaces of importance, she demonstrated with her life what we as people are capable of achieving when we put our mind to tasks. You have to remember that the way things were in the past is not how things are now. Now people are more welcoming to female leaders than they used to be. That she was able to pioneer change as a woman in such a hostile environment is to me astounding. She was the Malawian real-life wonder woman. If you need a dose of inspiration, grab this book and read it.
I can rave on and on about this book because there was a lot to love and very little to dislike about it. I loved how you get to learn a thing or two about the Ngoni culture. How you appreciate that even though life has changed tremendously from the time she was a little girl, most things still remain the same. You get a deeper understanding of the inequalities that were there during the colonial rule. And the inequality that persisted even when we got out independence. There is a lot to learn from this book, trust me. That is why I say Lomathinda: Rose Chibambo speaks is an important book for Malawi, every Malawian needs to read it.