February 14, 2005

The Sacred Baobab Tree

Griot are keepers of the oral tradition. They are singers who chant praises to Senegalese families in times of celebration. The trade is one passed on from father to father, from generation to generation since as long as people can remember.

A family generally has its very own griot, which they support financial, in exchange for a recounting of their great grandparents, grandparents and parents' family stories. The stories of course, are generally always positive, or if exposing a certain ancestor's failings, quite humorous and harmless. Though the trade is considered lowly, their role is essential because they are Senegal living historians. They are found in every ethnic group in Senegal except for the Diolas.

Griots have never worked the soil and, as a result, cannot be buried in the ground. It is said that if a griot should be ever buried in the land, a terrible drought will develop.

They are buried within Baobab trees. Baobab trees are considered useless trees, owing to the fact that their bark cannot be used to make furniture. The fruit it bears, the Pin de Singe, is used to make Bouie, a concoction that when mixed with hot water, is good for diarrhea. A baobab tree can also harbor honey in its highest branches. The tree is very common in Senegal and part of the reason is that it is not cut down for resources.

Feeling that they deserved a proper burial, griots have fought to be buried alongside their brothers in the soil. President Senghor passed a law allowing this, thereby outlawing any burials within Baobab trees. The same year the law was passed, there was a severe drought.

--As told by our guide in the Bandjia Nature Reserve, city of Toubab Dialaw

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2 comments:

Red Handed Jill said...

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007 in Africa said...

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