Voices From the Forest

Voices from the Forest is a fascinating book which explores the journey of celebrating the link between people and nature.

However disconnected modern people may feel from nature, the cultural legacy of our natural environment continues to leave its mark on us. While the South African landscape has for centuries been moulded and manipulated by humans, the country and its plants and animals have in turn influenced our cultural and spiritual development.

Voices from the Forest is a fascinating book which explores the journey of celebrating the link between people and nature, the book reveals how plants, animals and landscapes are profoundly reflected in Xhosa language, stories, poetry, religious rituals, healing practices and everyday customs that define Xhosa culture. Over the years cultural and spiritual meaning of nature in South Africa has been poorly recorded and often misunderstood. The current trade of medicinal plants is often destructive and unsustainable with an estimated 27 million South Africans making use of indigenous medicines. This is a serious detriment as natural resources have been a reliant for underprivileged people who gain food, fuel, medicines, and building materials from wild plants. Therefore the addition of information on edible and medicinal plants is of extreme importance.

The book is based on 10 years of personal discovery and research by authors Tony Dold and Michelle Cocks, and consists of highly unique photographs that portray that both contemporary rural and urban South Africans still find great cultural and spiritual value in nature. Many books on the subject of natural resource use focus on the negative of how natural resources are being depleted by continued use. While this is indeed a reality, Voices from the Forest gives a fresh positive approach to biodiversity conservation in SA by showing that people’s values for natural resources can be considered positively as a way forward to continued sustainable use.

The book explores the role that nature plays in the cultural and spiritual landscapes of the Xhosa people in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and serves as a pointer to sustainable practices in the future. The underlying aim is ultimately sustaining cultural heritage and conserving biodiversity because in our modernising world cultural diversity is threatened by the loss of natural diversity and finding ways of protecting the region's biodiversity and cultural diversity is of vital importance. As a book which has a social focus, Voices from the Forest is of exceptional value – and it also has a far wider application: what you learn from it, you know must also apply in different ways to countless other peoples whose way of living has been changed and uprooted.



1. Ihlathi lesiXhosa — Fish River Bush to Albany Thicket

2. Amayeza esiXhosa — Xhosa Medicine

3. Ubugqi namakhubalo — Magic and Charms

4. Amasiko esiXhosa — Rituals and Rites

5. Ulwaluko — Rite of Passage

6. Imifino neqhilika — Pot-herbs and Honey Beer

7. Ubungcibi kwaXhosa — Ceremonial Crafts

8. Iimbhola zesiXhosa — Xhosa Cosmetics

9. Inkcubeko nendalo — Dance of Diversity

10. Imithi yesiXhosa — Medicinal Plants


About the Authors
Tony Dold
is a plant taxonomist and ethnobotanist and is the curator of the Selmar Schonland Herbarium at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown.

Michelle Cocks is a research officer at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes University and the recipient of the prestigious Achiever Award for Woman Researcher in the category ‘Indigenous Knowledge Systems’ from the Department of Science and Technology in 2009.

The authors have documented and photographed indigenous plant use in the Eastern Cape for the past 20 years and were awarded a certificate in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the category ‘Preserving Customs and Traditions’ by the Provincial Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture at the annual Achievers Award Ceremony. Royalties from this book will go towards providing suitable storage facilities for the informal medicinal plant traders at the King William’s Town taxi rank.

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Parameters of Book: Book
Sub-title: Celebrating Nature and Culture in Xhosaland
Author: Tony Dold & Michelle Cocks
ISBN: 9781431402991
d-PDF ISBN: 9781431403882
Size (mm): 265x210mm
Pages: 236pp
format: Hardcover
Colour: Full Colour
Rights: World
Language: English
Publication Date: 2012-05-14