The Duom Tree of Wad Hamid is a short story that tells the tale of a small Sudanese village and their survival of various things that the narrator believes people who are not from the village or “thick-skinned” like other villagers would be able to survive.
This short story is a bridge between modernity and traditions. It tells the tale of the push and pull between the village and the government who were trying to destroy the most important tree in the village — “Here it is: the doum tree of Wad Hamid. Look how it holds its head aloft to the skies; look how its roots strike down into the earth; look at its full, sturdy trunk, like the form of a comely woman, at the branches on high resembling the mane of a frolicsome steed! In the afternoon, when the sun is low, the doum tree casts its shadow from this high mound right across the river so that someone sitting on the far bank can rest in its shade. At dawn, when the sun rises, the shadow of the tree stretches across the cultivated land and houses right up to the cemetery” — in order to put a modern transport system in the village. The villagers however rejected the government’s vision of this and would only love to live the lives they were accustomed to.
The villagers were used to living a life of hardship and blissful ignorance. They had no water pumps, no modern transport (they were used to riding their donkeys) or even an agricultural scheme and they liked it that way. They were able to reject the modernization of their small village and did not mind it at all.
They had no hospitals and only their tenacity and faith heal them from the sting of the fearsome sand flies and other sicknesses. “I was under the doum tree,’ she said, ‘with hardly sufficient strength to stand up, and called out at the top of my voice: “O Wad Hamid, I have come to you to seek refuge and protection — I shall sleep here at your tomb and under your doum tree. Either you let me die or you restore me to life; I shall not leave here until one of these two things happens.”
However, this short story showcases what it feels like to live a pleasant and peaceful life away from the stress of the modern world. The villagers have everything they need and are content in themselves. This, I believe, is the point Tayeb Salih was trying to showcase in this short story. Living a life of peace and harmony and being able to hear out own voices above the globalization and noise of this world.
Should You Read?
The Duom Tree of Wad Hamid is a very short story that reads like a conversation between an old man living in the village the Duom Tree was and you. I, personally enjoyed this writing style.