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Notes on the Geography of Malawi: Blantyre: Photo 1

world pictures Malawi: Blantyre

The hamlets he had in mind would have been: (1) the Scottish mission, established in 1876 and by the early 1890s with an extraordinary church; (2) the "boma" or government district; and (3) Mandala--represented here by its headquarters, Mandala Top. Built in 1882, this is the oldest surviving building in the country. The name has nothing to do with Buddhism but refers in Chichewa, the local language, to light reflected from water. Here it's used metaphorically to refer to the eyeglasses worn by John Moir, one of the brothers who ran the African Lakes Company, established in 1878 and originally called the Livingstonia Central Africa Trading Co. The brothers resided upstairs and used the lower floor as offices. Today the ground floor is a crafts shop; the upper floor is the home and library of the Society of Malawi.

Harry Johnston, who would build up the Nyasaland Protectorate, wrote, "At Mandala there are many houses and stores and workshops and stables-all very neatly made of brick, with iron roofs. There are handsome roads and gardens and a perfect forest of eucalyptus." In a less benign humor, he referred to the company as "that detestable old Vampire" run by "a miserly, fanatical, uncultured set of Glasgow merchants" (quoted in Baker, Johnston's Administration, 1970, p. 63).

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