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Harare’s Fiery Flamboyants

Footnotes (Blog), Issue One - 2017 / No Comment / 19/04/2018

by Benjamin Leon

Flamboyants on Blakiston Avenue © Benjamin Leon

Flamboyants on Blakiston Avenue © Benjamin Leon

The image of the flamboyant trees (Delonix regia) in full bloom was taken in November 2005 on Harare’s Blakiston Street.  Flamboyant trees abound in Blakiston Street and Lawson Avenue in Milton Park.  They are between fifty to sixty years old.  Regrettably, old age and termites have taken their toll.  The trees grow to heights of about thirty to forty feet.  Some branches grow heavier and thicker than others and are a threat to durawalls and traffic.

Flamboyants at the Crossroads © Benjamin Leon

Flamboyants at the Crossroads © Benjamin Leon

Regrettably over the years many trees have fallen to the attack of termites.  The tree below, photographed December 2017, has a branch lying across a cycle path and main road.  The trunk is quite hollow.  In the past the municipality attempted to replace the old dying trees.

Fallen Flamboyant © Benjamin Leon

Fallen Flamboyant © Benjamin Leon

On one occasion I had to call in a tree cutter or tree feller to cut one branch that was threatening to break off do to sheer weight.  Due to the shortage of fire wood this particular tree, outside my gate, has been demolished.  Recently one branch on a tree across the road collapsed, blocking the tarred road, forcing motorists to drive around it. On examination it was found that the entire trunk was hollow and had been eaten away by termites.  The municipality has replanted a few trees, but has not followed the exercise through.  In 2005 Blakiston Street was a magnificent sight with the trees in full bloom.  Today perhaps a third of them have vanished.  There are still patches where there is an unbroken row of trees.

Decimated Flamboyant Trees Blakiston Avenue 2017 © Benjamin Leon

Decimated Flamboyant Trees Blakiston Avenue 2017 © Benjamin Leon

The damaged is not so severe along Lawson Avenue where another magnificent view is available in season.

At one time it was suggested that flamboyant trees be planted along the highway leading to Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport – what a greeting that would be for future visitors to Zimbabwe to enjoy.

Flamboyant in Full bloom © Benjamin Leon

Flamboyant in Full bloom © Benjamin Leon

Benjamin Leon, self-appointed historian for Gatooma/Kadoma, was born and grew up in that town. He was educated at Jameson Primary School and Milton Senior School in Bulawayo, where he joined the photographic club and became fascinated by the photographic process in the dark room.He married Rose Navarro in 1963 and they have three children.

He worked as a photographer and reporter for the Gatooma Mail from 1958 to 1978 and has a stack of monochrome negatives from that era taken on a Roleiflex camera. He was instrumental in producing the 60th anniversary edition of the paper published in 1972. He was also a correspondent for The Herald.

In 1991 he ran a portrait studio of the now defunct Noel Wesson in Harare, and at the same time obtained a diploma in photography from the Harare Polytech.

In his youth he operated the projectors of the Royalty Theatre cinema in Gatooma. He mixed his own monochrome chemicals for his darkroom at home. In 2003 he acquired his first digital camera whilst running the portrait studio for Strachan’s Photo Pharmacy, where he worked for 24 years before retiring in March 2016.

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