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The Faara Tree (Camel Foot)

My Magazine 2023/12
2 min
The Faara tree or the Camel Foot Tree, is one of the indigenous forest trees found in almost every part of The Gambia. It bears a camel foot-like shape and has been of great use to traditional Gambian society - from making costumes for masquerades to first aid treatment, treating toothache, etc. The ancient knowledge of its benefits to the typical Gambian community is fading away. Our curiosity at My Gambia led us to understand its traditional significance, and we present you with some fascinating facts.

For making the Kankurang costume: the famous Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival, a festival of culture, skills, African knowledge and spirituality, heritage, and community, is approximately two months away. You may have heard of the Kankurang and this festival and may be curious about its costume. Well, let's dive into the pre-stage of the festival, as it is interesting to know that the costumes of some Kankurangs at the festival are made from the bark of the Faara or the Camel Foot tree. The bark is usually shredded off the tree, and the top layer is separated from the second. The second layer is then dried to reduce its weight and tied with ropes on the person to wear the mask. There are different kankurangs, but the two below use the faara as a mask.

  • The Faara Kunkurang: This KanKurang wears the bark of the faara tree just like an apron, covering the entire body with a bit of space for the eyes.

  • The Jamba Kankurang: This Kankurang uses the shredded bark of the Faara as an armless dress stopping around the waist and then made stiff with additional leaves (Jamba) of other trees. This Kankurung maintains order in society as it yields a stick in hand as it goes.

Others believe that the KanKurang chews the Faara, which could get it drunk and furious.

Making ropes for tying: The bark of the faara tree is also used to tie firewood or other materials for easy carrying. As the traditional Gambian depends on the forest for firewood, the firewood is usually packed in bundles and tied together with the help of the second layer of the bark of the Faara tree and then carried on heads or donkey carts to the home.

Herbal medicine: The tree is also considered a very effective medicine for toothache. The small fresh leaves are usually plucked from the tree and boiled. This water is then used for gargling, which helps to soothe toothaches.

First Aid: Another use of the camel foot tree in typical Gambian society is first-aid treatment. The shredded bark of this tree has been used for many years to stop bleeding in instances of cuts while working in the fields, where there is no quick access to first aid material. The bark is shredded, the layers separated, chewed and placed on the cut to stop the bleeding.

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