Antelopes grazing near the baobab tree is the illustration on the back of our beautiful banknote from Gabon. The massive and amazing baobab is often called the tee of life. It is thought by many to be the inspiration for the “Ents” in the stories of J. R. R. Tolkein. The image on the left is a Kota mask. The Kota, (meaning “united” or “bound together”), being several groups sharing a similar culture, fashion these masks and other figurines from wood and then frequently cover them with brass to increase their power.
On the front of our banknote, the shepherd watches over his zebus. Zebus are a humped cattle that thrive throughout the topics.
The banknote is common to the 6 nations of the CFA, Central African Financial cooperative. The capital letter “L” in the bottom left corner is the sole distinguishing mark that links this to Gabon. The other 5 countries have their own distinguishing letters. The first two digits of the serial number, 00 (16579666) indicate the year of the issuance of this banknote. The year of this banknote is the year 2000.
Elephants, a tree, and a safari vehicle in Kasungu National Park decorate the back of this banknote.
Kasungu National Park extends along the Zambian border. It averages 1000 meters in elevation and is covered with woodlands and bush and numerous grassy river channels running through it. It provides home for elephants and hippos, antelope, impala, zebras and buffalo. The illustration shows a safari vehicle in the foreground and an elephant nearby, but the perspective belies the true size of our beloved creatures.
Try this photo.
Our elephants can be 4 meters tall!
African elephants are very social beings. Both the men and women have tusks. The elephants illustrated in the 50 kwacha note are a mother and child. Herds are led by a matriarch, usually the oldest woman and consist of their daughters, sisters and their children. The boys remain with the herd through adolescence and then generally move on. The men tend to be loners but will sometimes congregate in smaller bachelor pods. Now for the tree.
If you look closely, them immensity of the tree trunk can be seen below baby’s neck and through mama’s legs. Yes, this appears to be none other than the wonderful Baobab! Please compare it to this photo from the field.
This baobab tree resides in Liwonde national Park, Malawi, which is just 250 miles are so, as the creatures roam, from Kasungu national park.
The baobab is also known as the “Tree of Life”.
As to why this particular tree is called the “Tolkein Tree”, well, that is a tale for another post.