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The inventor

The inventor is Mr Nolence Moses Mwangwego, born on July 1, 1951 in Mwinilunga district of Zambia, where his Malawian parents lived during the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. His parents returned to Malawi in 1963 with some of their children, including Nolence who was 12 years old by then.

Mr Mwangwego comes from Yaphet Mwakasungula village, in the area of Paramount chief Kyungu in Karonga district. He is married to Ellen Kalobekamo and has a daughter and three sons. He speaks three Malawian languages: Chewa, Tumbuka, Kyangonde and three European languages: English French and Portuguese. He is currently working as teacher of French at the French Cultural Center, in Blantyre, Malawi.

Mr Mwangwego was, on December 29, 1997, installed village Headman Yaphet Mwakasungula IV.


November 10, 1977 is the birthday of the the idea in the mind of Mr. Nolence Moses Mwangwego to invent a writing system for Malawian languages. It was during his first six-week stay in Paris, France, that he discovered  the existence of several different writing systems used in the world.

This was a puzzle to Nolence and, as time passed, he remembered the verbs KULEMBA and KUSIMBA which in Chichewa and Kyandonde, respectively, mean “to write”. He felt convinced that the existence of the two verbs was enough evidence that people in Malawi used to write before the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century. He, therefore, decided to create a unique writing system meant for writing indigenous Malawian languages in place of the latin alphabet.

In April 1979,  he created his first symbols which he modified, simplified and refined during the subsequent years. He finished the first part of the invention in 17 years’ time and launched it on April 7, 1997. He completed the whole project in 2003, making a total of 24 years that he devoted to this invention.

During the launching ceremony the then Minister of youth, sports and culture, Mr Kamangadazi Chambalo, was quoted as saying: “Mwangwego script is in itself history in the making. Irrespective of how it is going to be received by the public nation-wide, the script is bound to go in the annals of our history as a remarkable invention.”

Soon after the launch , Mr Mwangwego experimented his invention by teaching 10 people. The first person to learn and master the script is Miss Mwandipa Chimaliro.

When he was satisfied with the results, he conducted a series of public lectures and exhibitions in some secondary schools and colleges in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

In October 2001 , Mr Mwangwego started teaching some people who are among the targeted 10,000 pioneers of Mwangwego script. And in January 2007, these pioneers formed the Mwangwego club whose membership is open only to those who have learned the Mwangwego script.

The script's inauguration ceremony

The Minister's Speech

Speech by Hon. Kamangadazi Chambalo, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture (Monday, April 7, 1997, Blantyre)

Mr Nolence Mwangwego
The Director of the French Cultural Centre
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour for me, ladies and gentlemen, to inaugurate the Mwangwego Script exhibition this evening. I am told that it is a syllabic system which uses symbols instead of letters for syllables. To my knowledge, this is the first time ever that someone has attempted to do this in Malawi. It is a new and broad idea and I think that it is a challenge to all of us. Since this is a unique exhibition, my remarks will therefore be brief.

 Let me start at the outset, ladies and gentlemen, that the introduction of new ideas or new ideas has always been a challenge to the recipients of that idea. Very often, the initial result of that idea is that of puzzlement as people wonder if the idea is worth their attention and if indeed it will work. I will not be surprised if some of you feel the same tonight. If my understanding of history is correct, the introductions of scripts have always been milestones in histories of nations of the inventors of these scripts. That is true with some nations in Africa such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Guinea, just to mention a few, that use their own scripts. Some scripts have had a world-wide impact. They include the Latin alphabet which was adopted by most western languages, the Arabic script and also a few others. You can therefore appreciate, ladies and gentlemen, that scripts have been of the world’s greatest invention.

They had the effect of easing communication and preserving history and cultural heritage of various nations as written records begun to be kept for the first time. That is why I believe that tonight we are witnessing a great event in Malawi. Ladies and gentlemen, I think Mr Nolence Mwangwego deserves all  our congratulations for this invention. The Mwangwego Script is in itself, history in the making.

Irrespective of how it is going to be received by the public national-wide, the script is bound to go in the annals of our history as a remarkable invention. I am therefore very glad that you and I are a part of this event. I wish, therefore, ladies and gentlemen, to encourage all Malawians to be as creative as they can. I know that we cannot all be like Mwangwego, but in our own way, let us be as creative as we can be.
All of us need to play our part to contribute positively to our cultural heritage. Let me reiterate what I have said elsewhere, that, of my Ministry’s major responsibilities is to encourage promoters of our cultural heritage to be very resourceful. There is no excuse for not using our minds creatively. My Ministry ladies and gentlemen, will always welcome new useful ideas.

Lastly, but not least, I thank the Director of the French Cultural Centre, I thank him for holding this exhibition here. This centre has played host to many Malawian cultural events, much to the benefit of Malawians. Your support therefore is appreciated. I promised to be brief, but allow me to speak in Chichewa so that I can express myself better than I have done.

The script


Mwangwego script is a syllabic writing system which uses symbols for syllables. It was invented in Malawi and is aimed at replacing the Latin alphabet, in the 21st century, when writing indigenous Malawian languages and serves as one of the symbols of national unity and identity. It was invented by Nolence Mwangwego in 1979.


Mwangwego script is written from left to right in horizontal lines. It is composed of 32 symbols (misisi) and 11 diacritic marks (mituyo), each character stands for a syllable. For example, MALAWI is written with three characters. The name of each character is the syllable it stands for.

Diacritics are added to a character on the left, above or below to indicate tone or pronouciation.


  • Misisi: The 32 misisi stand for syllables pronounced with “a” sound like : aba, chada, makala, nyama, tadana, wafa, zafala e.t.c
  • Misiri: the 32 misisi when arranged on the 5 vowels of the Latin alphabet (a e i o u ), are called misiri and are used to write words like : chidani, chuma, litsiro, masewera, madzi e.t.c.
  • Mituyo: They are used to make “ka” be pronounced nka, kha, khwa, nkha, nkwa, kya, e.t.c, “ba” to be pronounced mba, bwa, mbwa, mbya, e.t.c. One is then able to write words like : chakudya, mankhwala, munthu, nsabwe, nsomba and so on.

NOTE: Mwangwego script cannot be used to write English. If you have to, you must pronounce the word in detached syllables in Chichewa e.g. spoon to be written supuni.


Chibemba, Chichewa, Chilambya, Chilomwe, Chimambwe, Chindali, Chingoni, Chinyiha, Chinyika, Chisena, Chisenga, Chisukwa, Chitonga, Chitumbuka, Chiyao, Kinyakyusa, Kyangonde.

All indigenous languages spoken in Malawi and some neighbouring countries of Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, D.R. Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.


At the meantime books are in the process of being written with Mwangwego script in Chichewa and Kyangonde. Already there are postcards and greeting cards.

How to write


1. Where did you learn this script aWhat will Malawians benefit from this script?nd who taught you

I did not learn it anywhere and nobody taught me but I created it.

2. What is the purpose of this script?

Its purpose is to serve as one of the symbols of Malawi's national identity when it replaces the Latin alphabet to write Malawian languages.

3. How can this script contribute to the development of Malawi?

When Malawians write their languages with Mwangwego, they will become more creative. They will think better than today. The script will inspire them to be innovative for the country.

4. Do you think Malawians will accept this script?

Present Malawians may not accept it because they have been influenced by colonial values. But future Malawians will use it when the Government of Malawi begins to realise that it needs innovative ideas from innovative Malawians and, especially, when Malawians finally get rid of envy and jealousy.

5. Why did you give it your name?

I gave it my name for two reasons: 1) The idea to invent this script is mine and I toiled alone without assistance from anywhere. 2) To inspire the present and future Malawians to invent and innovate for Malawi when they remember that this script was created by a Malawian.

6. Don't you think this script will confuse children?

This script will in no way confuse the children who will learn it. Instead, it will make them become cleverer. Children in Israel, Egypt, Ethiopia, India and other countries in the East learn two or more different writing systems and they are not confused. Malawian children will not be confused either. I refuse to think and believe that Malawian children are born too dull to learn two different systems.

7. What mad you invent this script?

When I discovered that there are several different writing systems in the world, I wondered why in Malawi we did not have our own. And when I learnt that the Latin alphabet was imposed on our languages I did not like it. When I remembered the verb kulemba and kusimba which mean to write in Chichewa and Kyangonde, respectively, I was convinced that Malawians used to write before colonization. I, therefore, felt I should create a system that would decolonise our mind and adapts better to our languages.

8. Aren't you just crazy?

If one thinks I am crazy, then every inventor, every innovator and every thinker is crazy when they create new ideas and objects that are used and enjoyed by millions of people who are not crazy.

9. Who is sponsoring the Mwangwego script?

Mwangwego script has been and is sponsored by me. More than K1 million has been spent on the script since 1979. All institutions and organizations that I had contacted for help refused to give financial assistance.

10. What does the Malawi government say about the script?

The Government of Malawi is quiet despite having been represented by a minister during the launch of the Mwangwego script on April 7, 1997. They have kept quiet despite receiving several letters from me. I wrote tirelessly to: The Office of the President and Cabinet, the State House, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Ministry of Information, Members of Parliament. There is dead silence since 1997.

11. What is the position of Malawian universities?

Universities in Malawi have not shown any interest in this invention. It may appear that it is due to colonial conditioning and also because the script did not come from them. Officials from the Centre for Language Studies of the University of Malawi promised, in their letter of 29th April 1997, to give me a feedback on the script and I am still waiting to hear from them.

12. What will Malawians benefit from this script?

Malawians will benefit a lot from this invention as a cultural and intellectual identity. It will enable them to keep all records intact. It will give them inspiration for innovation.

13. What have you achieved?

When you create something new that changes people's mode of life, this in itself, is an achievement. People who have learnt the script appreciate what they know and use. Malawians will remember that I have contributed something to human knowledge and that I have put my country on the map of inventors. This is a very important contribution to national development.

14. When do you think the script will be introduced in Malawian schools?

The script will be introduced in Malawian schools only when the Government of Malawi decides to recognise it.

15. Why not put Mwangwego on Malawian postage stamps?

The issue about Mwangwego script on Malawian postage stamps was discussed in December 2005. Stamps were designed and were expected in 2006 but the Headquarters of Malawi Posts Corporation refused to use the script saying that it was difficult for them to believe that the script was created by a Malawian. This sentiment was also echoed by the director of culture in the ministry of tourism and culture who expressed fear of promoting a foreign script.

16. If someone wants to learn Mwangwego, what is the procedure?

One can choose from two options: 1) If you want to learn it just like that, it is free of charge and you can do so online. 2) If you want to enjoy the status of being one of 10 000 “pioneers of Mwangwego”, there is a small fee and your name will appear in the Mwangwego Museum of Writing.

17. Is there any literature with Mwangwego?

Yes, there is a book in Chichewa written with Mwangwego published in 2011 and some more books are in the pipeline in other languages.

18. Who witnessed the beginning of Mwangwego?

Two people witnessed the beginning of the Mwangwego script: Ellen Mwangwego, in 1979 and Aaron Sangala in 1980.

19. Don't you think it is too late to introduce a new script now when Malawians are already writing with the Latin alphabet?

It is not too late to introduce this script now as it is mostly children who will start learning it during their first year of primary school. When schools were introduced in Malawi around 1875, the people who were taught the Latin alphabet were children. The same thing will happen with this script.

20. What is the difference between Mwangwego and the Latin alphabet?

The difference is that with Mwangwego script, each symbol [misisi] stands for a syllable. For example, the word Malawi is written with three symbols. The symbol's name is the sound it stands for. For example, the character which stands for ma is called ma. With the Latin alphabet, you need to combine several characters to write a syllable.

21. The script looks difficult. How easy is it for one to learn?

Anything you don't know gives the impression that it is difficult. You understand in one hour how the script works and you master it in four weeks. There are three lessons: 1) misisi, 2)misiri, 3)mituyo.