When it comes to a legend, various cultures have a way of coming up with some wonderful stories. In my craft, I use a fair number of African woods, so I thought I might talk a bit about the stories that go with the wood I use. I find it interesting that the legend of wood is an important one for those of African descent.
The Giraffe Tree – or Camel Thorn – of Nambia is one tree with an interesting legend. Some locals believe that it can snatch up and eat unsuspecting individuals. Once trapped inside, others can hear the person singing a goodbye song. Only the woodpecker can free an individual trapped in this tree, and then he will only do so for a price.
Many societies in Africa have at one time or another had legends that speak of spirits in the trees. Some large trees have a single spirit while others may have many spirits inside. They say that there are those who can listen and understand the spirits. The drum maker is one such person.
To capture the voice of the drum, the maker must be able to understand the spirit within. The same goes for the boat maker who wishes to protect those using his boat. Understanding the spirits and preserving them can protect them from drowning in dangerous waters.
When it comes to turning bowls, I seek out the story that each piece of wood can share. I look deep inside to find the patterns and colors that want to come forth. All woods, whether African Padouk, Bubinga, or Limba to South American Purpleheart or Rosewood, have a different story that wants to come out. It’s my pleasure to give voice to these as I create each of my bowls and pieces. In the end, I like to think that like the African story tellers I am doing my part to continue the legend of the wood.