Sunset over Lake Malawi, near Salima. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Tamanda Kanjaye’s “Song of the Lake” is an exercise in surrendering to our sonic environments. It’s a moment of stillness amid noise and haste. Originally published by Doek! Literary Magazine, in Namibia, Kanjaye’s multimedia piece presents a triptych of aural and written scenes from three different places in Malawi. Although she takes us somewhere in each soundscape (or auralgraphs, as the magazine calls them), we don’t expect to arrive anywhere. Instead, we sit with the sounds of Salima, Lilongwe, and Blantyre — of waves brushing the shoreline, of traffic and cars buzzing, of a radio playing music on the bus. These mesmerizing auralgraphs, which can even be appreciated cyclically, compose the short narrative of a mother and daughter’s relationship. “Song of the Lake” is a moving encounter with endless drifting, rupture, and return.

— Alexandra Valahu for Guernica Global Spotlights

The Song of the Lake


Picture this:

A quiet Tuesday morning.

A noisy mind.

A lake running across a whole country.

I skipped work for this scenery. For the wind crashing against the sky. For the sky crashing against the waves. For the waves crashing against my mind.

I told my boss I needed a week off.

“For what?” he asked.

“To refresh — surrender if possible,” I said.

He looked at me as if I were mad. He said I could have a day.

I could have done anything I wanted. Slept in my bed. Watched some TV. Even caught up on some overdue reports. Instead I drove a hundred kilometers from home at six in the morning and found myself at the familiar shoreline in Salima.

People forget that before we came into the world, water was our first home. We were suspended in it for nine months. On days such as this, when I feel so unanchored, I find myself beneath these waves, tethered back to a familiar time and place.

* * *

A City Drive to Nowhere


A strange pastime of mine: I love driving through the city. Or, rather, I love being driven through it. On this hot day, Lilongwe is close to silent. An odd state of affairs for a city forever bustling with life.

My mother turns up the radio. She mumbles something, but I am too lost in the sound of the engine and the spinning of the tires.

My phone vibrates, but I ignore it.

I drift off to sleep under the hum of the other cars.

* * *

Errand Run


I am surviving in Blantyre, the commercial capital. Surviving because I am outside the comforts of my mother’s home, which means I have to buy my own groceries.

Getting a bus is the most eventful and frustrating part of this ordeal. I have to endure catcalls from conductors, the inconsistent weather, terribly loud radios, and even louder conversations.

Today, however, I am in a good mood. I find myself at the front of the bus — a win because I won’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of other people getting on and off the bus. The conductors don’t care that my skirt is short and tight, because they are too busy trying to get as many customers as possible during the lunchtime rush. The drive is long and slow, but I don’t mind the songs on the radio. The woman next to me laughs into her phone: “I hope you’re paying my bus fare.”

Originally published in 2021 by Doek! Literary Magazine, an online journal based in Windhoek, Namibia, that describes itself as seeking to “provide an encounter between local and international storytellers and a global audience.” Auralgraphs © 2020 by Tamanda Kanjaye.

Tamanda Kanjaye

Tamanda Kanjaye is a Malawian writer and poet with a small scattering of published work. She is known for her short, emotional pieces that explore the gritty ebb and flow of the human experience. She is also a senior editor with Africa in Dialogue and the founder and curator of Nthano Press, a forthcoming Malawian literary magazine.

At Guernica, we’ve spent the last 15 years producing uncompromising journalism.

More than 80% of our finances come from readers like you. And we’re constantly working to produce a magazine that deserves you—a magazine that is a platform for ideas fostering justice, equality, and civic action.

If you value Guernica’s role in this era of obfuscation, please donate.

Help us stay in the fight by giving here.