Tree Graffiti

After being gone for a month, we came back to Niamey and were very happy to find that everything was in order in our house. We were worried about leaks in our roof, since there was so much rain while we were gone, but everything was dry. The electricty worked, and we had running water. The internet was down, but after a few days and a few phone calls to the internet service provider, we were back online. I was actually expecting much worse.

But I did notice something strange as I walked through our yard. We have many tall eucalyptus trees, and someone had carved a message into the trunk of one of them. I tried to remember if it had been there before, but I could tell it was new. I asked Abdou, our night guard if he knew where it came from, and he said no. I thought about asking Maggagi, our day guard, but then I remembered that it couldn’t have been done by him since he does not really know how to write.

“How odd,” I thought, as I examined it. The message was cryptic, and written in a very neat, curvy handwriting. It read:

A Niamey

What could it mean? I had no idea. Some sort of warning perhaps? Or perdiction? I could not tell. It might as well have read Croatoan. But I was kind of concerned. I didn’t really care about the tree, but I didn’t like the thought of someone coming into our yard while we were gone and celebrating the New Year.

But what could it mean!!!!

A few days went by, and I put the strange message out of my mind. “After all,” I thought to myself, “what is the big deal? I can live with the mystery.”

Then, just yesterday morning I went out to wait for my ride to the hospital (we carpool), and I saw drawings on the tree right outside our front door. They were remarkably similar to the tree-trunk message.

Notice the attention to detail.

This sparked my curiousity anew. It wasn’t just one message – it was a whole series of messages! But what did it mean? Who were these drawings by and what were they trying to communicate? I broke out in a cold sweat and started scanning the street from left to right. Maybe the mysterious vandal was here now, watching…

Obviously not the work of an amateur.

“Are you ok?” Maggagi asked me, as he came over to say good morning. “Here sit down,” he said, offering me the chair that he usually sits on.

“I am fine,” I said. “I was just looking at these drawings.” I pointed to the drawings on the tree. “Do you know who did them?”

“Yes,” he said. “The person who did them is me.”

“Really? Why?”

“Well, sometime when I have no work to do I am bored and I like to draw. First I drew this man,” he showed me the man he drew, “and then one of the other guards from across the street came and asked me who drew it. I told him I did, but he didn’t believe me. So I drew this woman,” he showed me the woman, “to prove to him that I could do it.” He smiled. “He was amazed.”

“So,” I said, “you like to draw?”

“Yes,” he said, “but I haven’t done it in a very, very long time. Since I was a kid.”

“Tell me, did you do the one on the tree inside, that says, ‘2012 A Niamey’?”

“Yes,” he said, with a sheepish grin.

“Ha!” I laughed, and he laughed with me. “I didn’t know who did it!”

“It was me!”

“Listen Maggagi. I will get you some paper to draw on, ok?”

“Yes, I would like that.”

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5 Responses to Tree Graffiti

  1. Batya says:

    wonderful! I hope our stuff comes in handy. Batya

  2. Laura Blystra says:


  3. Kim says:

    Amazing story!

  4. tamirann says:

    Not pc to say “I didn’t care about the tree”. That would have freaked me out. It’s funny that he just decided to write on all the trees. Maybe Julie can start a neighborhood art therapy class for all the guards. Love you

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