Name ID 616
Matthiessen, Peter The Tree Where Man Was Born
Extract Date: 1972
... At dawn we left the Gol behind, turning north toward Loliondo.
...The vehicle traversed the lonely rises, rolling a thin dust cloud toward the west. Myles wished to show me an enormous fig that stands by itself far off beyond Barafu Kopjes. These hard plains are bare and bony, with only a whisper of grass, yet the animals keep to the ridges, where the grass is shortest. In a tilted world, the wildebeest went streaming down the sky, black tail tassels hung on the wind behind, all but a solitary bull, thin ribbed and rag-tailed, old beard blowing. Perhaps he felt his own death upon him, for he paid no attention to our intrusion. Soon he had the whole sky to himself.
The giant fig, which looks like a small grove in the distance, is at least as old as man�s recorded history on this plain. Its spread is not less than one hundred and fifty feet, the size of six ordinary figs, and it is a tree of life. Cape rooks, kestrels, owls, and the shy brown-chested cuckoo were in residence, and none would willingly leave the tree because there are no other trees for miles around. One owl that moved onto a nearby rock was punished by the kestrels; at each blow from above it shifted its feet and shuffled its loose feathers. The tree has a Maasai hearth built into its thick base, and a flat stone near at hand for sharpening spear blades. One day I would like to sit under this tree that has drawn so much fat wood and fleshy leaves out of near-desert, and stare for a week or more into the emptiness. One understands why these old figs take on a religious aura for the Africans; they are thought to symbolise the sacred mountains, and the old ways of close kinship with the earth and rain, Nature and God.
Extract Date: 1999 April
There is a fig tree in the Serengeti, near Nasera rock, which has been given this name by many, including Gibb's Farm Safaris, after the book by Peter Mattheissen.
A recent guest at Gibb's Farm misheard, or misunderstood, the name and wondered how Amanda was born there - it is now also known as the Amanda Tree.