African textiles, £10.99
David Davidson, Daniel and Petra Carstens, Baobab Tree, steel and bark
Made in South Africa
This sculpture of a baobab tree was designed by David Davidson and manufactured by Daniel and Petra Carstens, who live near Cape Agulhas at South Africa's tip. The Carstenses are immersed in nature, having moved from Cape Town to a farm in a private wild flower reserve. They specialize in creating sculptures and decorative pieces out of invasive alien vegetation.
The tree was originally created for exhibition at London's Chelsea Flower Show and appeared in the Ground Force Africa Garden. Its imposing six-metre structure consists of a steel wire skeleton weaved with strips of Port Jackson bark, a species which is not native to Cape Agulhas. The tree was manufactured in sections that lock into place so it can be transported in pieces and put together on arrival.
Real baobab trees, with their bulbous branches and gnarled bark, are said to embody the spirit of Africa. They can live for thousands of years and are some of the oldest living things on earth. Their trunks can grow up to eighteen metres high and nine metres in diameter, and can store more than 120,000 litres of water.
Baobab trees are associated with many legends in Africa and are said to have magical powers. Some people believe that drinking the water in a baobab's seeds will keep you safe from attack by a crocodile; others believe that if you pick a flower from the tree you will be eaten by a lion. The baobab has many uses for humans: the fruit can be sucked or roasted to make a coffee-like drink; the bark can be pounded to make baskets, rope, paper and cloth; the leaves can be boiled and eaten; and the pollen can be used to make glue.
J. Mack (ed.), Africa: arts and cultures (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)