the widows’ tree (text)


A tree, in France as well as in Madagascar, stands for Man’s verticality, his ambitions or his relations to his environment. It is a token of present-day environmental concerns.
In Madagascar, the tree marks the various rites of passage throughout life: during Sambatra (the circumcision celebration), the tree is supposed to assist the young boy’s soul and help him move on to adult life. In France, a rather different tradition has a similar purpose: on a boy’s birthday, his parents used to carve a notch just above his head so he could see how much he had grown and gradually observe his evolution toward adulthood when he would be a full- fledged member of the community.
For this project, I materialized the various stages of development of an old eucalyptus in the Mananjary school playground. I painted several marks at different heights on its trunk. Each mark corresponds to the average size this species reaches every 4 or 5 years; a similar device was used for a boy. This is a way to visualize the slow, often imperceptible growth of the tree which represents a priceless treasure in the case of an endemic rainforest.

NB: desertification is a constant threat to the Big Island. Indeed, the Malagasy rainforest is being bulldozed for economic and customary purposes: due to intensive farming 200,000 to 300,000 hectares of endemic forest disappear each year.