Literary giant DD Phiri leaves lasting legacy

Written by  Felix Mponda

The sun didn't rise fully on Sunday for Desmond Dudwa Phiri, one of Malawi's literary giant who died at a private hospital in Blantyre aged 88.

DD Phiri: No more DD Phiri: No more

The cause of his death was not immediately known to MBC Online from family members.


Popurarly known as DD Phiri, he was a man of many talents- historian, author of international repute, educationist, economist and columnist.


   The news of his death shocked the nation and tributes started flowing in from among fellow writers who were influenced and inspired by his literary prowess over the years.


Great poet Okomaatani Malunga said Phiri was “a versatile writer whose passion for writing touched the lives of many upcoming writers.


“His wide and deep reading was evident in his simple but tremendously profound style in everything he wrote.”


Malunga added that: “He was the epitome of balance in the well thought ideas he advanced with humility and amazing clarity. Put simply, he was a quintessential scholar extraordinaire. ”


"He was such an inspiration to many authors in Malawi and SADC region. We have lost a great man," journalist and author Willie Zingani told MBC Online.


"Some of us became writers through his wisdom. He was readily available to advise you to keep on writing. He told me that just last month," Zingani added.


     Author and poet Tsambalikagwa Mvona said: "DD Phiri was an encyclopedia, historian and great writer. I am a writer because of him."


Mvona, President of the Malawi Writers Union (MAWU), said: "Malawi will miss a great man, a true hero."


   DD Phiri was a board member of MAWU.


 Born on 23rd February in 1931 in Ematheni Village, T.A. M'mbelwa in Mzimba district, Phiri pursued his studies at Blantyre Secondary School, Livingstonia and Loudon (Embangweni) schools. He later graduated in Economics from London University.


   He once served as a civil servant and diplomat in several countries including Tanzania.


 After retiring, he established the Aggrey Memorial School, a distance education college in Blantyre, offering education and professional courses such as Journalism and Economics. Some of the students were from several SADC countries.


   He broke into the literary scene with the 'Chief's Bride', a play that was included in a world anthology of great modern plays published in New York in the late 60s.


   His entry into Malawi literary scene was his five biographies under the generic title of 'Malawians to Remember'.     Some of his works include 'From Ngoni to Nguni', 'What The Achievers Teach Us About Success', 'I See You' (Life of Clements Kadalie), 'Let Us Die for Africa', a revised biography of John Chilembwe.


   He also authored popular books 'History of Malawi, Volumes 1 and 2 (from 1915 to date) and 'Malawi, Our Future, Our Choice', an anthology of essays.


Until his death, he was a columnist in two of the country's dailies.


In 2005, Phiri was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy by the University of Malawi and the Special Presidential Achievers Award in 2009.


DD Phiri once told me he was lucky to have "lived through most historic events of modern Malawi...that's why I have written history books with authority and based on eyewitness account."


Survived by one son Kwame, a well-known hotelier, the legendary DD Phiri, whose wife died a decade ago, will be buried at HHI cemetary in Blantyre on Thursday.




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