Part I – Considering myself a tree hugger, I thought I knew a thing or two about the importance of trees.
However, as I am learning more about the local context, their importance has never been so dear and real.
The word Garab (tree in Wolof) is synonymous with medicine in the local language. The shade provides protection against the scorching sun (a true oasis during the day). The leaves and branches are the most important sources of natural fertiliser and building materials. People, soil, animals, plants, insects, microbes, fungi, air, water, minerals – everything in nature is connected and related to trees.
Pic. 1. Big Hug in Keur Ndiaga Peuhl (project village)
Part II – Silk cotton tree
Silk cotton tree is one of the landmark trees in the area.
They grow large and mature – expanding their trunks in width and girth. At the touch, the bark looks and feels smooth like elephant skin (what ? you haven’t touched one yet?! well, use your imagination ;-). However, my local language (Wolof) teacher, Baboucarr tells me that monkeys dare not climb this tree – except if its life is in grave threat. Why? I wondered. The tree is smooth but looks easy enough to climb for monkeys. Finding a younger silk cotton tree, I realise why. It’s full of thorns!!! The younger tree is full of thorns and untouchable, but as it ages, it loses its spines and develops smooth (like silk cotton) bark. What an amazing transformation.
Pic. 2. A mature silk cotton tree
Pic. 3. A silk cotton tree mask?
Pic. 4. A younger silk cotton tree (spiny trunk and branches)
Ibrahima Haliloulay Dia – this is my local name.
Ibrahima or Ibou (pronounced ee-boo) for short is the first name. Ibrahima is same as Abraham the Patriarch of the People and the Prophets.
Haliloulay is middle name (or full version of Ibrahima), and it means “ami de Dieu” ou “une plume de Dieu“. A friend of God, God’s pen (like in It is Written). I love it.
Dia is the last name and is pronounced Jah. Dia belongs to the ethnic group Peuhl who are known as nomads and livestock rearer. I was baptised by a local teacher and organic farmer named Moussa “professeur” Dia (hence my last name). He was visiting a friend who lived in my compound in Wack Ngouna the day I first arrived, and after our greeting, he decided that my original name would be too difficult for the locals and gave me the name Dia. As for my first name, I chose it myself – Ibou. My first night in Dakar, the hotel clerk who helped me was named Ibou, and I liked the sound of it.
“Salaamaleekum, Ibou Dia laa tudda” (Peace be with you, my name is Ibou Dia)!
Pic. 1. Mosque at Nioro du Rip
Pic. 2. Actually didn’t go in…
Pic. 3. Friday prayer day attire – now going to the mosque!
Attaya is the local tea that everyone drinks throughout the day and night.
It is similar to “Moroccan tea” – green tea, mint and sugar (lots more than our daily recommendation). The making of attaya is fun to watch. The tea is poured in and out from one glass to another, making thick layers of foam and bubbles. It is laborious, and it takes time to make, but one glass of attaya may contain more punch than your double espresso: a full cup of sugar and chok-full of tea leaves in a small kettle makes this brew so strong and sweet that you won’t ask for a second. But, often we are offered up to three rounds of attaya. Too sweet for my blood.
Here, a variation of attaya made with milk concentrate is shown. In the picture, the tea maker is Solou – the facility guardian at AVISU, our Gambian partner NGO – in action. Tea time!
Pic. 1. Attaya kettle
Pic. 2. Ingredients – milk concentrate, China green tea, sugar and vanilla sugar
Pic. 3. Heating with charcoal (fan fan fan)
Pic. 4. Fresh (or dried) mint is added if available
Pic. 6. Pouring begins…
Pic. 7. Wash the cups
Pic. 8. Et voilà, Attaya is served!
Pic. 9. & 10. Other kinds of Attaya – regular and with bissap (Hibiscus flower)