Simon’s Town author explores magic of baobabs

Estelle Byrne, 92, of Simon’s Town, has written a book, Baobabs; for young and old alike

By Karen Kotze

Artist, teacher Estelle Byrne, of Simon’s Town, has just become an author again… at the age of 92.

Not only that, but the first run of her book, Baobabs: For young and old alike, sold out in the first month.

A second run is currently in print in Gauteng.

Mrs Byrne spent the past four years working on the book, which is designed to appeal to readers of all ages.

“All the best children’s stories do this,” she said.

Why did she write a book about baobabs?

That’s the easiest part, she said – to help share the realisation that even the mightiest tree needs to be protected from what she calls “our mercenary world”.

Mrs Byrne would love to see a seed bank created so that the trees can be saved for future generations.

“Another reason I wrote it, was for us in the Cape to know of the wonder of the baobab – its presence and grandeur,” she said.

Mrs Byrne was first enchanted by the baobabs that grew up around her in the mining town of Selebi Phikwe, in Botswana. There, she ran a weaving factory and began painting the generations of baobab trees around her.

“How many trees could one write a whole book about?” she asked. “Every part of this spongy, ’succulentish’ tree can be eaten or used. Or admired – and even worshipped,” she said.

She said there are multitudes of reasons why the tree is called “Mother” in Africa.

During the past four years, Mrs Byrne dusted off her original paintings, and added more to the collection so that the fullness of her book could be aptly illustrated.

Her Simon’s Town neighbour, Marelise van Wyk, helped her with the design and layout of the book, which delves into all aspects of the trees from natural science and biology to mythology. The trees are also used commercially, and Mrs Byrne examines the environmental threats to their survival.

Mrs Byrne studied art in London and taught in Harare for 30 years.

She also edited a newspaper in Botswana, and, after moving to Cape Town 30 years ago, became a member of the Simon’s Town Art Society.

Her previous book was a celebration of the flowering fynbos species of Elsie’s Peak, according to the seasons, from which she crafted four volumes of paintings.

The books are available at the newly opened Just Nuisance Gallery, 122c St George’s Street, opposite Simon’s Town’s Jubilee Square. Call 076 670 3398. Boababs: For young and old alike is available, for Kindle, on Amazon.

An excerpt from Baobabs: For young and old alike, by Estelle Byrne, 92, of Simon’s Town.
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