The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid

by auro909

Aurora G. Torrejon

English 213

The Impact of Colonization on Culture

     Tayeb Salhi’s works are generally political and deal with colonization. In this translated version of “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid”, he intertwines history and story telling to share a story about political and foreign interference with the pace and rhythm of a village. The habitants from the village where the mystic tree is found have embedded it in their lifestyles; they religiously idolize it and when sick or in serious trouble they turn to it for solace. When the survival of the tree is threatened by governments that want to see the village progress, the locals translate this as a direct threat to the survival of their community and their heritage. This threat triggers a collective action within the village, which later unifies the entire nation, to rise up to protect this natural icon.

     This insightful short story reflects the impatience of foreigners to export their methods while ignoring the local community and the history attached to it. Salhi portrays the common will of the locals to resist foreign rule and the modernization impact that comes with it. He deliberately shows the importance of people standing up to defend their values while preserving the culture and history of their nation. He shares this story with the world so that we, as strangers to this culture can “think well of [them] and judge [them] not too harshly” when it comes to understanding their resistance to modern ways.

     Salhi introduces the reader to the story in an engaging way where he feels as if he is being personally addressed by a wise old native man who compassionately tells him the story of his homeland. However, as the narrative changes the reader later finds out that it is a tourist who is recalling his visit and encounter with the old man. The old man draws the line between tourists and locals; throughout the story he reinforces that tourists who are used to their urban commodities “would not stay long” in this village where people humbly “live on what God sees fit to give”. The author emphasizes how foreigners to the village want to implement technologies in a place they will later leave, and since the locals don’t value them, the foreigners only leave unnecessary harm behind.

     As Salhi contrasts the well being of the village with the impatience of outsiders to see things progress, he indirectly invites us to question whether modernization can take place without intruding and ignoring the heritage of a community. Is modernization necessarily better? Does progress leave space to accommodate history, traditional icons, customs, and values? Salhi will not answer these inquietudes, but he will challenge the readers to think about how we often exist without knowing the history that lies behind us: a history about who we are.





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