The tree of life is a universal symbol reminiscent of Jungian archetypes. Every culture across the world imbues its own native Tree of Life with special healing properties and supernatural qualities. Some see its branches reaching towards the sky as life’s transcendence beyond the now to everlasting life and its roots reaching down into the Underworld. Some cultures appreciate the Tree of Life for the comfort and shelter it provides in the storm of life.
Tanaka Africa's Share the Land with the Balboa-the African Tree of Life
The ancient symbol of the tree has been found to represent physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation, liberation, union and fertility. The tree's long branches and flowing leaves are seen as a symbol of femininity while its trunk is seen as masculine. Carl Jung believed that the tree symbolizes individuation, self, androgyny, and equality between the sexes.
Tanaka Africa's Preying at the Moonglow in the Shadow of the Baobab Tree
The Baobab tree is Africa’s Tree of Life. It is treated with much reverence as a provider of life and sustenance as it produces fruit despite very dry climates. Baobab trees grow in 32 African countries and can live for up to 5,000 years. In addition to providing food and livestock fodder these trees provide medicinal compounds. It is interesting to know that as recent as August, 2020, new research published in the Science Daily “Genetics of the Tree of Life – Understanding the African Baobab Tree” has advanced scientists' genetic understanding of the baobab tree and found that it has 168 chromosomes. In contrast, our typical Christmas trees, conifers, such as the spruce and pine tree, have only 12 chromosomes.
Many savannah communities have made their homes near Baobab trees as they can provide shelter, food and water for animals and humans. In fact, a mature baobab tree can sustain its own ecosystem with a variety of creatures depending on its “social capacity”. Birds nest in the tree's branches and snakes and insects use the inside of the trunk as a home. Monkeys and baboons eat its fruit and elephants eat its bark during the dry season when they need some of the moisture the tree holds.
Tanaka Africa's Evergreen Baobab Tree-African Tree of Life
The majestic baobab tree is an icon of the African continent and lies at the heart of many traditional African remedies, folklore and art. It is not surprising that many of the paintings done by Ghanaian artists depict the baobab tree in its haunting beauty conveying all types of moods and ambiances. Sometimes the baobab tree is seen at night with a sliver of the moon shining from behind it and other times it is seen peacefully resting in the hottest of days with the sun shining directly on its strong and capable bows. The baobab tree is strength, comfort and confidence personified. No-one can see the baobab tree in the middle of an arid plain and not gasp with awe at its perennial courage and believe that there has to be more to life than just what we see.
Tanaka Africa's Tree in Harmony
The baobab tree is a prehistoric species which predates both mankind and the splitting of the continents over 200 million years ago. It is native to the African savannah where the climate is extremely dry and arid. The baobab tree is a symbol of life and optimism in a landscape where little else can thrive. It is interesting to note that over time the baobab has adapted so skillfully to its environment. Its ability to adapt is reminiscent of Darwin's Origin of Species “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
Baobab trees in the Aburi Botanical Gardens near Accra, Ghana
The baobab tree is a succulent, which means that during the rainy season it absorbs and stores water in its huge trunk which enables it to produce a nutrient-dense fruit in the dry season when all around is arid. The baobab tree can certainly teach us something about handling the adversities of life. Its species has remained alive for millions of years and despite its hardship it appears regal, content and at peace with itself.
The baobab tree has a fruit and that this fruit is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. In fact, every part of the baobab tree is valuable-the bark can be turned into rope and clothing, the seeds can be used to make cosmetic oils and the leaves are edible, the trunks can store water and the fruit is extraordinarily rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Women in Africa have turned to the baobab fruit as a natural source of health and beauty for centuries.
Baobab is the only fruit in the world that dries naturally on its branch. The fruit instead of dropping and spoiling stays on the branch of the tree and bakes in the sun for 6 months. Its green velvety coating is transformed into a hard coconut-like shell and the pulp of the fruit dries out completely. This means the fruit simply needs to be harvested, de-seeded and sieved to produce a delicious pure and nutritious powder.
Tanaka Africa's The Eternal Baobab Tree's Twisted Reach at Dawn
The baobab tree is clearly a Tree of Life- a serene symbol in our quick paced society where we all feel that we don’t have enough time. The baobab tree knows that it has a lot of time and is in no rush to go anywhere. Its species has survived for millions of years and from the perspective of the baobab tree not much has changed or it has learned that change is the only constant. Now we can understand why the African Baobab Tree is an integral part of African art home decor.