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Aesthetic and Functional Exploration of Chitenje as an African Cultural Icon

Damazio Mfune-Mwanjakwa


While appealing to ideas in iconography, in general, and the Objectivist aesthetics of Ayn Rand, and Sigmund Freud’s concept of the fetish, in  particular, the study makes an exploration of the Chitenje as a versatile – if not the most versatile - African cultural artefact. The main thrust of the  exploration concerns the Chitenje’s aesthetic, role, and economic significance among Africans, generally, and Malawians, in particular. The study’s  major postulation is that Chitenje’s enduring and universal aesthetic, role, and social appeal among Africans, positions it firmly as an icon. Alongside  the drum, regional staple foods, and liquor, it is arguably one of the most significant African cultural artefacts and critical drivers of  African economies. However, due to this now cultural item’s aesthetic and fabric quality challenges, there is a real risk of it losing its iconic status and  falling by the wayside not so many years in future – and that will be regrettable. To meet this threat, Chitenje’s central social and economic  place merit it as an area worth investing in win-win partnerships among African fine artists and designers, the African continent, and its cultural,  political, and economic partners China.