The Makonde Tree of Life: A Piece of African History, Culture, and Tri – Paulski Art

The Makonde Tree of Life: A Piece of African History, Culture, and Tribal Art

A Tree of Life is a symbolic expression found in many cultures around the world. It represents wisdom, growth, transformation, interconnectedness, unity, and continuity.

The Makonde people are a Bantu-speaking group of people in the southern part of Tanzania and northern Mozambique, who have been practicing wood carving for centuries as the main occupation.  They have a rich history that is closely linked to their culture, religion, and art. I can just imagine living in the Southern Highland of Tanzania... savannas, woodlands, grasslands, and forests surrounding me like mother nature’s hugging envelope, not forgetting that the region is among the richest and most important production areas for grains and potatoes, and the main source of timber in Tanzania. Notably, we are aware that Africa’s history is deep-rooted in using available natural resources for their survival, without depleting them as they were respectful of mother nature’s gifts. The inhabitants of this region understood the assignment from the universe, and with their deep sense of community, created the symbol of solidarity, unanimity, soul, and life. The Makonde tree of life.


We have seen many beautiful pieces of tribal art throughout our lives. However, few can compare to this Makonde tree of life. It is not only visually appealing but also tells an important story about African history, culture, and art. There are several reasons why this art form has come to stay and not just be a fad or passing phase among the tribe. It is because their art form has staying power; it is steeped in tradition, it has deep symbolism, and it represents the culture of the people who practice it. Work on these pieces usually starts with an idea that might be sparked by something real or imaginary – like a dream. The carvers whittle away at dense blocks of wood until you see the vision come together in front of you. A skilled Makonde carver can work on one piece for weeks to a year, and the sculptures can be up to 6 feet tall!!

This breathtaking geometric piece is a perfect example of what we can learn from them by combining several elements from their culture into one creative sculpture that tells a story about who they are as a people and what they value at heart. The Makonde people are famous for their beautiful wooden mask carvings and sculptures, which have been displayed and sold all over the world.


Makonde History and Culture

The Makonde tree of life Africa design is a symbolic representation of the interconnectedness between humans and nature. This design has been passed down from generation to generation and is still used by the Makonde people today. Makonde artists have been creating stunning works of art for thousands of years, honing them with the ability and skills to master the skill of wood carving for even longer.

The style is an artistic finesse called Dimoongo – one of the eight major Makonde styles. The Dimoongo (power of strength) style, also referred to as Ujamaa, was introduced by the late Roberto Yakobo Sangwani. Sangwani migrated to Tanzania from Mozambique in the late 1950s. The original style represented a winner in a wrestling match who was carried shoulder high by his colleagues represented in a cluster of figures. Some later versions were carved showing a female figure at the top of a cluster of figures. This was the beginning of a style known as the Makonde family tree.

African tradition, stories, culture, and history were all passed down orally from generation to generation, and that explains there being no written history of this as well. Oral traditions were the way of life. Theories about where it originated vary from a story about an ancestor who was turned into a tree by an evil spirit to stories about how one day an ancestor was sitting under a tree when he had a vision that he should carve his family's history on it as well as his own personal history.


Traditional African wood carvings reflect the culture of an authentic and original philosophy. It gives a specific visual form to a highly organized system of thought with its own logic and harmony. Over the years, we have seen various types of tribal art, each with its own story to tell. Many of these pieces have become iconic in the art world. The Makonde Tree of Life is no different. This artistic piece represents all that is great about African culture and history. It tells a story about the interconnectedness of people and nature, and how all living things are connected. The design of the Tree of Life is such that it can take into account not just the living things but also the dead. This represents the Makonde people and culture as a whole. They have always been respectful and mindful of those already gone, who acted as building blocks to their lives and close-knit kinship.

This Makonde Tree of Life is a stunning piece of art that represents the interconnectedness of all living things. It tells a story about the history of the Makonde people and their core beliefs. This iconic piece of tribal art will likely not be forgotten in the future. In a world where souls are drifting apart every day... the symbol of unity that the Makonde tree of life represents is a reminder that we are one. True to say, we have seen many beautiful pieces of tribal art throughout our lives. However, few can compare to this Makonde tree of life. It is visually mysteriously appealing and tells an important story about African history and culture.