CAPE TOWN– Japan has presented South Africa a sapling from a tree which survived the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. The Gingko Survivor Tree is a symbol of peace, hope and friendship.

The sapling was planted in the arboretum of the Afrikaanse Taal Museum and Monument in Paarl, about 60 kilometres northeast of here, on Wednesday as part of the launch of South Africa’s One World Festival.

From the utter devastation that saw the near annihilation of two Japanese cities during World War II, it is now a message of peace, hope and resilience.

The seeds came to South Africa six years ago and were cultivated at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. The seeds of these trees were sent to us from Hiroshima in Japan by an organization called Green Legacy Hiroshima and they collect seeds from trees that survived the atomic bomb blast in 1945, so if you think of the absolute utter destruction that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fact that these trees actually survived is in fact a miracle in itself and many of these trees are still alive today, says South African National Biodiversity Institute Adam Harrower.

The seeds from these survivor trees are sent all over the world. The Ginkgo Biloba or Maidenhair Tree is one of several which have been planted all over Cape Town.

The founder for Green Legacy Hiroshima said the first thing that encouraged people who were devastated by the bomb is this green sprouts coming out from the burnt soil and then it is telling the people that you must live, you must live, you must be strong and that is a great incredible story and it’s a powerful message of peace, said the Consul of Japan in Cape Town, Yasushi Naito.

The tree is a symbol of life, but above all, hope. Even while there was an intention to cause devastation it defied our human action and reasserted itself as nature and so it talks to our connection with nature and it talks with our ability as part of nature to survive the most horrendous action, says Institute for the Healing of Memories, Fatima Swartz.

And through memories, it is hoped that the process of healing also ensues. I think through memory we can start a process of healing and that particular plant also signifies sort of the whole process of rising from the ashes and re-positioning ourselves and using language as a medium and in this case a tree as a symbol of growth and enrichment, says Michael Jonas of the Afrikaanse Taal Museum and Monument.

Delicate origami or folded paper, cranes were placed at the tree, symbolising prayers for peace.