Jack Mapanje was born on March 25, 1944 in Mangochi, Malawi geboren. He studied Englisch and Education in Malawi and England and in 1983 received his PhD in Lingusitics from the University College London. In 1975, he joined the Department of English at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, where he later was appointed Head of the Department of English.
His first collection of poems, Of Chameleons and Gods, was published in the U. K. in 1981 and where soon withdrawn from bookshops, libraries and all instutitions of learning in Malawi. Mapanje was imprisoned without trial or charge by the Malawian government in 1987, and although many writers, linguists and human rights activists campaigned for his release, he was not freed until 1991. Mapanje went into exile in Great Britain.