Bearded Fig Tree: A Symbol of Struggle and Survival by Elizabeth Best


“Bearded Fig Tree: A Symbol of Struggle and Survival” by Elizabeth Best



In this work, nature becomes a narrative and testament to the Spirit that dwelt in my ancestors and kept them alive so that I might exist.


The beard-like aerial roots falling from the Ficus citrifolia inspired Portuguese to give the island,
Barbados, its name, Los Barbados, the bearded ones. Whereas others might see deformed
branches and untidy beards, I see an anthropomorphic study of people and a story waiting to be

The sermon spoken by this tree is that struggle visits everyone in various ways, but since we are
parts of one tree of life, we could survive, if we joined hands and hearts and worked together
regardless of color or gender. Hope exists in the new tendrils shooting out from old branches. In
them we see a symbol of the continuity of life. They seem to be dancing, an observation that in
the midst of struggle we can find a reason to dance and celebrate life.

In addition, the tree physically demonstrates progress as it “walks” across the terrain, for when a
tendril finds a space, it drops roots and develops its own unique trunk, thus adding to the girth of
the tree system.

The Ficus Dance of Life

Bearded fig trees not only engage us
in the reciprocal use of air,
they also mirror us in the forms of their dancing limbs
and possibility for self-regeneration.
Human-like, they wave veined brawny arms,
flex bulging thighs, thick or lean,
and lithely lean into life
with ribbed or pregnant torsos.
Flailing beards or aerial roots
become dangling tendrils of hope,
fragile offspring stretching towards a rooting
back into the womb of the earth
to eventually swell into new trunks
of sisters and daughters reinforcing roots,
maintaining life,
claiming space,
expanding community,
showcasing strength,
flaunting beauty
“walking” into the future,
each one taking the family farther.


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Elizabeth Best Artist Statement: 

With the tools of art, music, poetry and performance, I carve out a space for myself with enough room to grow and harbor others. My art, music, writing and performance exist because I believe I have something to say that could stimulate a mind, stir a heart and touch a soul.

Author: A Room of Her Own

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