A Map of the Border between Malawi and Mozambique Near the Islands of Likoma and Chizumulu

Malawi-Mozambique, Border Islands Map.png

I was browsing through a list of exclaves around the world when I happened upon these two islands in Eastern Africa. The islands are Malawian territory but sit entirely within Mozambique's territorial waters. I am shocked at the lack of drama behind some strange borders and these two islands appear to be no exception. Most of the history behind the border can be traced to the explorer, David Livingstone's explorations in the region and the establishment of the, "Universities Mission to Central Africa" Station on the Island of Likoma.

Upon reaching Lake Malawi in 1859, Livingstone named it Lake Nyasa. As the British began to colonize the African continent, they eventually claimed all of the territory surrounding the lake and named it Nyasaland. Portugal then colonized the Eastern shore of the lake. Since the British still had their mission station on Likoma Island, the islands were given to Malawi when the final borders were drawn up.

Although ownership of the islands is not under dispute, the name of the lake is. Malawi obviously prefers "Lake Malawi". Most other nearby nations prefer "Lake Nyasa". According to Wikipedia, the name Nyasa came about from a mistake in translation. Upon arriving at the Lake, David Livingstone reportedly asked his guide for the name of the lake. The word that came back was "Nyasa". However, nyasa basically meant "lake," the generic word not the lake's proper name (if it had one). Lake Nyasa stuck but should really be translated as "Lake Lake" in other languages. I have seen this happen many times when researching the history behind a place name for my maps. Many of the names for native peoples are the result of this type of confusion between a local population and foreign explorers.