Africa / African / Images / Masculinity / Men

Two Views of A Tree: We Become What We Do, Hear and See


View 1 of a Tree, by K Ratele

View 2 of a Tree, by K Ratele



Here are two views of a tree. 

Now it is my intention to write about the Traditions Panels I convened in Ghana as part of International Conference on African Studies held at the University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana, October 24-26, 2013. Quite an important moment, I think. The best pitso of the three I have convened so far.  And what a trip it turned out to be. 

Perhaps there is a connection between what I have been thinking of in relation to traditions and these two views of a tree.

Anyhow, before I left for Ghana I wanted to say something about this tree.

I have always found this tree to be quite something. Sturdy, hulking, and taking quite a bit space on the sidewalk, the branches reaching over the street. And yet it somehow manages not to take over the sidewalk. Sometimes I cannot help but touch the tree. I am not sure but I think it must be quite old. It’s certainly much older than the 12 years I have lived in this suburb.

Anyhow, a few weeks ago I finally remembered to take along a camera and photograph the tree. It’s on my way to the local store.

However, even though it is, for want of a better word, captivating in and of itself, I think the tree is useful as a comment about what we see, how we see things around us, identity, and many other things besides).

It is such a mundane idea, actually, but one still needs to remind oneself that we are not only genes and the rest of our biology. We are not only our physical parts, in other words. We are also in significant ways what we do, what is done to us, what we hear, and what we see. Regarding the tree, depending on where you stand, you can see different sides of tree as well as other objects around and beyond the tree. This happens to be true for non-tree things too, of course, things like what it means to be a man, woman, lover, father, mother, husband, wife, girl- or boy-friend, friends, African, South African, black , white, coloured, Asian, and many other things like that. 

What we see, that is, is important to what we are. How we see the world cannot but become part part of us.  The things we pay attention to in our environment and in others also make us who we are.

The converse is true too, certainly. I am uncertain which is cause and what effect. I do know, that is to say, that who we are also directs us as to what we pay attention to in the world around us, in us, in others.

How can such a simple idea be so vital in what we are: we become what we do, hear, see; what is done to us, what we say to others, how we are seen.


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