Tobaski: Under the baobab tree

Knots and wrinkles scar the baobab’s bark, but age can’t mar its glory. Known as “the tree of life,”   some baobab trees have been dated as ancient as 6,000 years old. The tree in Sibanor stands at the center of the village, a watchful presence harboring even more stories than the toothless weathered widows who kneel below it in prayer.

People from even the furthest corners of the village gathered under its wide umbrella of branches on the Muslim holiday of Tobaski, just as the morning sun began to turn hot. Men dressed in their best African robes laid mats in its shade while veiled women took their place in back.

With time, the excitement of greeting neighbors dwindled. It seemed after so many generations of prayers, even the highest branches of the 80-foot baobab knew to stop bustling as the villagers began to worship. For a few moments, all fell still, silent. Then the Imam began the recitations as villagers joined in. Their mantras hung in the air, a spiritual melody to accompany the yellow-tailed birds who had begun to sing. Praying to the East, everyone moved in unison, up, down, up, down — under the baobab tree.


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Gathering for prayers

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Girls ready to pray

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Boys from school all dressed up for prayers

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Seikou, my neighbor’s baby is the only baby on my street who doesn’t cry when he sees me

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Waiting for prayers to start

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The morning light shines through as villagers prepare to pray

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Under the baobab tree