Cultural Values of Trees in the East African Context

  • Graziella Acquaviva University of Turin
Keywords: ethnobotanics, Swahili, symbolism


Certain trees have a sacred status, are used in rituals, and have symbolic importance for ethnicity, identity and connection to a place. In this paper I will explore the values that some East African ethnic groups attribute to trees and their symbolism through an interdisciplinary point of view. Several literary works, have been penned and highlighted the relationship between man and nature: tree’s metaphor and symbolism have been used in both Tanzanian and Kenyan literary production; and symbols are also an aspect of East African agrarian history because production, exchanges, and consumption are mediated by systems of meaning.


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Author Biography

Graziella Acquaviva, University of Turin
Graziella Acquaviva holds a PhD in African Studies from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” and is currently a fixed-term (Senior) Researcher in Swahili Language and Literature at the University of Turin. She has done extensive field research in Tanzania and Kenya on Swahili popular literature and has many publications in the field of African literature. She further translated Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio: Storia di un burattino (1883) and Carofiglio’s Testimone inconsapevole (2002) from Italian into Swahili (Hekaya za Pinokio and Shahidi asiyekusudiwa). She teaches Swahili Language, culture and literature at the University of Turin. She can be reached at:


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