Chonganda, Creator of Plant Life

Every year, Mel and I make grand plans for our garden. We aim to plant, compost, mulch, water, weed, and toil in the soil until we have created Eden around our home. Needless to say, each year we fall a bit short.

Like most people, we have a bit too much enthusiasm at the start of spring. We plant more vegetables than we can possibly eat. We happily buy seeds and plants at gardening centers with little to no knowledge about their growth requirements. We haphazardly shove plants in the ground with overly optimist visions of the bountiful harvest that surly awaits us.

Our eagerness (and often enough, our plants) tends to melt away with summer’s soaring temperatures. By the time fall arrives, I am over it and I pray for rain and snow because both give me an excuse to not rake leaves.

Recently, I read the creation myth of the Kuba people of central Africa.

Long ago, the white giant, Mbombo lived alone on earth’s waters in darkness. An intense pain grew in his stomach and he vomited forth the sun, moon, stars, and planets. The sun warmed the earth, creating clouds and dry land.

Still ill, Mbombo then regurgitated nine animals: a black panther, a crocodile, an eagle, a fish, a goat, a white heron, a leopard, a tortoise, and a scarab beetle. These first creatures gave rise to all animal life on our planet. The heron gave birth to all flying birds except for the kite, the scarab all the insects, the crocodile all the snakes and iguanas, the goat all the horned animals, and so on.

Mbombo puked one last time; expelling humans forth upon earth.

The sons of Mbombo also wanted to help their father complete the creation he had started. Nyonye Ngana poured out all his energy and created ants. Sadly this effort cost him his life. Out of respect for their creator, the ants dug deep into the earth to bury their beloved father. In doing this, they churned the soil making the barren land rich and fertile. Chonganda intensely focused his effort but was only able to produce a single tiny plant sprout. But know that this sprout grew, produced seed, and spread to become all the grasses, all the trees, all the plants of the earth. Chedi Bumba created the last bird, the kite.

It struck me how much effort each of Mbombo’s sons put fourth only to produce what seemed like small creations relative to what Mbombo produced. They, like Mel and I, had grander visions and may have felt disappointed with their meager results. But even these seemingly sparse results had long lasting positive impact that the son’s did not anticipate.

Perhaps despite the fact that nobody would accuse Mel and I of having green thumbs, the time and effort we put into our tiny plot of land is doing us some good that we may not yet fully understand.

Because I liked this story so much and because Chonganda created the very plant life I hope to nourish in our garden, I memorialized this story by creating Chonganda retablos. . . which are of course available now in my shop!

Did you go out partying last night, Kate?

Hell no. I did a bunch of chores so that I could wake up early Saturday morning and focus my day on cutting and painting cardboard. That’s how I roll!


She knew he was right. She had no right to utilize every flat surface in the home for her various projects. The family needed a clean dinning room table on which to eat meals. Kitchen counter space should be used for preparing said meals. And though she viewed the buffet and the fire place mantle as acceptable ‘temporary’ storage space, he had argued that covering these surfaces with her crap made the rooms seem cluttered. Therefore, she made the goal to confine her works in progress to her writing desk. . . Already the goal seemed unrealistic. . .


It was a test. How much paper mache would get done before the toddler lost interest in the nursery rhyme video?


The answer:

My little art critic.


She laid out her Sunday morning alter with care. Now the spiritual uplifting would begin.


I put the creation story on the back of each retablo.


That peaceful moment when I realized that I am just about done with this project.


I now have five Chonganda retablos!


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