Ficus at JWSE

O mighty tree,

O wondrous Ficus natalensis,
you lift your strong, solid arms to the sky.
You push your podgy, gnarly roots into the earth.
You fling your thin, aerial hair to the wind.
O bountiful fig arbour,
you create manna on terra firma,
bringing hope to perishing fauna.
You provide cool relief in the hot African summers.
You give shelter in the driving rain.
You are home to thousands —
arthropods and reptiles,
amphibians and mammals.
O mighty tree,
O mighty Ficus natalensis,
let me wrap my limbs about your bole,
press my face into your coat
and feel your surging, silent power.



In Zulu culture there exists “izibongo” or “praise songs / poems.”
These praise poems are wondrously full of amazing images.
Usually delivered by an imbongi (praise singer) these praise poems commemorate leaders and heroes.
Lesser known are the “common” praise songs, those which honour a family or person in a community.

I took this idea of a “praise poem” and wrote one for one of my favourite trees.
This idea, of writing a praise poem for a “thing,” made the children in my class laugh.
Then I challenged them to write a praise poem for a part of nature that they like.
The results were delightful.  I will ask them for permission to publish their words here.

In the meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about traditional Zulu Izibongo,
go here.