Terms and Conditions
Welcome to TONGUES, provided by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd (“we”, “us”, “our”). Access to and use of this website (“TONGUES”) is provided by us on the basis of a number of important terms and conditions, which are set out in full below.
You should carefully read these terms and conditions (“terms”). When you use TONGUES, you will be legally bound by these terms, which will take effect from your first use of TONGUES. If you do not agree to be legally bound by these terms, then you should not use TONGUES>.
These terms apply generally to the use of TONGUES. Any facility (“Comment Facility”) that we may make accessible to you through TONGUES, enabling you to post messages, comments, information, material or content (a “Contribution”), may have additional special terms attached. If and when a Comment Facility becomes available, you will need to read and agree to be legally bound by those special terms before you post a Contribution or use those sections. If you do not agree to be legally bound by those special terms then you will not be able to post a Contribution.
TONGUES is not intended for distribution to, or use by, any person in a country where that distribution or use would be contrary to local laws or regulations.
Changes to Terms
We are continually seeking to update and improve TONGUES. As a result, we may make changes to TONGUES, including these terms, at any time. You will need to review these terms regularly so that you are aware of any changes we have made. You will be legally bound by the updated or amended terms from the first time that you use TONGUES after we post the changes on-line.
The rights in materials, images, information, data, trade marks, trade names and logos and other content included on TONGUES (“TONGUES content”) are are owned by us or the relevant third party content owner. All rights are reserved and acknowledged. As TONGUES content is protected by a variety of third party rights, you may not copy, adapt, re-publish, make available to the public or print off copies of TONGUES content in any way, or use it other than as part of TONGUES and for your personal non-commercial use, without our prior written permission.
Information which we provide through TONGUES is in outline for information or entertainment purposes only. You should not rely on it.
Third party websites
We do not monitor the content of third party websites and any link provided on TONGUES is solely for your convenience. We cannot therefore accept any responsibility for any third party website. You are responsible for checking and complying with the terms and privacy policies applicable to your use of any third party website.
The extent of our responsibility to you has been determined in the context of the following:
access to TONGUES is provided to you free of charge;
it is your responsibility to determine the suitability of any TONGUES content for any particular purpose to which you wish to put it;
TONGUES does not give instructions and you are responsible for any action or decision you take or do not take as a result of TONGUES content;
It is your responsibility to ensure that your equipment is enabled with appropriate up-to-date virus checking software before you access or use TONGUES.
Whilst we will endeavour to ensure that TONGUES is available to you and that content for which we are responsible is accurate, we cannot make any legal commitment or representation to you that TONGUES will be available at any particular time or that it or any TONGUES content will be of any particular quality or fit for any particular purpose. However, we will exercise reasonable skill and care in providing any service to you.
We can accept no liability to you for any of the following types of loss (should you suffer any of them as a result of your use of TONGUES):
loss which was not foreseeable to you and us when you first accessed or registered to use TONGUES (even if that loss results from the our failure to comply with these terms or our negligence);
any business loss you may suffer, including loss of revenue, profits or anticipated savings (whether those losses are the direct or indirect result of our default);
loss which you suffer other than as a result of our failure to comply with these terms or our negligence or breach of statutory duty;
any loss suffered due to the default of any party other than us.
We do not give any commitment that TONGUES or any TONGUES content will be available uninterrupted or error free, that defects will be corrected, or that TONGUES or its supporting systems are free of viruses or bugs.
We can accept no liability to you if we fail, or are interrupted or delayed in the performance of any obligation because of:
the non-availability or failure of any telecommunications or computer services, systems, equipment or software operated or provided by you or any third party;
any other event not reasonably within our control.
We do not give any commitments or accept any liability to you in respect of TONGUES content provided by other users of the website or third parties other than us.
Nothing in these terms will limit our liability for death or personal injury arising from our negligence.
To the extent that we are practically able to do so, we may terminate your access to any part of TONGUES at any time without notice if you breach any of the terms.
If any of these terms are determined to be illegal, invalid or otherwise unenforceable then the remaining terms shall remain in full force and effect.
These terms shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of England and Wales. If you are a consumer, then you may have rights to bring court proceedings in the courts of the country in which you are domiciled. Otherwise, to the fullest extent permitted by law, you and we shall bring all court proceedings in the courts of England and Wales.
© TONGUES — An initiative by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd


Privacy & Cookies Policy
The tongues.cc website is operated by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd (‘TONGUES’).
This privacy policy applies to TONGUES.
We want you to enjoy our website and services secure in the knowledge that we have implemented fair information practices to protect your privacy. By visiting our website, you are accepting the practices described in our privacy policy, including our use of cookies and similar online tracking technologies. If you do not agree to the terms of this privacy policy, please do not use the website.
TONGUES may change this policy from time to time by updating this page and you should regularly check to ensure that you are happy with any changes. This policy was last updated on 11 February 2020.
The policy outlines:
1. General principle
2. How we collect information
3. Types of information we may collect
4. How we use your information
5. How we protect the information we collect
6. Access to your personal information
7. How to contact us
1. General principle
There are two types of information we may collect from you when you use the website: non-personally identifiable information and personally identifiable information. Non-personally identifiable information does not individually identify you, but it may include tracking and usage information about your general location, demographics, use of the website and the internet. Personally identifiable information is information that you voluntarily provide when you set up a user account, subscribe to a newsletter, or query that can individually identify you and may include your name and email address etc.
We do not link non-personally identifiable information to your personally identifiable information.
We do not share either type of information unless required to run the website and services (see third-party services below). We will never sell either type of information.
This privacy policy does not apply to any information collected outside of the website, including offline or through other means (for example, via telephone or through email), unless otherwise stated below or at the time of collection.
2. How we collect information
We collect information when you:
— Ask to be placed on an email newsletter list
Make an enquiry about our services
— Answer a reader survey
— Provide information to us
Links to other websites, social media platforms
Our website may contain links to other websites of interest. However, once you have used these links to leave our website, you should note that we do not have any control over the information that is collected and shared about you. You should exercise caution and look at the privacy statement applicable to the website in question.
You may interact with content on our website through social media platforms we use such as Facebook by using their social features. Examples of social features include ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ our content. We encourage you to review their policies before using their tools, which can be found at their respective websites. If you’d prefer that these social media platforms do not collect information about the content you share and use, we suggest that you don’t use their tools.
3. Types of information we may collect
The types of information we may collect includes:
— Account information (email address)
— Information you provide through a TONGUES reader survey which might include age range, education level etc
TONGUES is not responsible for any information you have provided in public areas of our website or on our social media platforms, which may then be viewed by other users.
4. How we use your information
The information we collect may be used to help us:
— Provide services you voluntarily subscribed to such as email newsletters
— Improve the quality of our website
— Promote services to you including advising you of updates or changes to our website and services
— Improve the website through reader surveys and feedback
Disclosure to third-party services
As part of providing our website and services to you we use a limited number of third-party services that perform functions on our behalf, including but not limited to website hosting, server monitoring, tracking user behaviour, marketing automation services, and customer service.
We have no control over, and assume no responsibility for, the conduct, practices or privacy policies of these third-party services and encourage you to read the policies of the services we use below:
TONGUES uses the MailerLite marketing automation service to issue newsletters. Find out more about MailerLite’s Privacy Policy and Terms.
When you subscribe to our email newsletters
By clicking ‘Subscribe’ you agree to the following: 
We will use the email address you provide to send you a weekly or monthly email. We also send occasional updates and, no more than once a year, reader surveys. 
The email address/es you provide will be transferred to our external marketing automation service ‘MailerLite’ for processing in accordance with their Privacy Policy and Terms. We use MailerLite to issue our newsletters. We have no control over, and assume no responsibility for, the conduct, practices or privacy policies of MailerLite
You can change your mind at any time by clicking the ‘unsubscribe link’ in the footer of emails you receive from us, or by contacting us at [email protected]. If you want to review and correct the personal information we have about you, you can click on ‘update preferences’ in the footer of emails you receive from us, or by contacting us at [email protected].
5. How we protect the information we collect
We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure. We have taken reasonable measures to protect information about you from loss, theft, misuse or unauthorised access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. No physical or electronic security system is impenetrable however and you should take your own precautions to protect the security of any personally identifiable information you transmit. We cannot guarantee that the personal information you supply will not be intercepted while transmitted to us or third-party service providers. 
Sharing your personal information
We will not disclose your personal information except; (1) as described by this Privacy Policy (2) after obtaining your permission to a specific use or disclosure or (3) if we are required do so by a valid legal process or government request (such as a court order, a search warrant, a subpoena, a civil discovery request, or a statutory requirement). We will retain your information for as long as needed in light of the purposes for which it was obtained or to comply with our legal obligations and enforce our agreements. 
Data transfer
This website is published in the United Kingdom. If you are located in a country outside of these countries and voluntarily submit personally identifiable information to us, you should be aware that information about you will be transferred to this countries. We attempt to comply with local data protection laws to the extent that they may apply to TONGUES. 
Age of consent
Our website is not directed at children under the age of 18 and we do not knowingly collect or maintain information from those we know are younger than 18. If you are younger than 18, you should not submit or post any personally identifiable information to our website. By using the Service, you represent that you are at least 18 years of age.
6. Access to your personal information
You may request a copy of the personal information we hold about you by submitting a written request to [email protected]. We may only implement requests with respect to the personal information associated with the particular email address you use to send us the request. We will try and respond to your request as soon as reasonably practical. When you receive the information, if you think any of it is wrong or out of date, you can ask us to change or delete it for you. 
We take all reasonable steps to ensure the information held is accurate, up-to-date, complete, relevant and not misleading. 
7. Contact us
If you have any questions about our privacy policy or our use of your information, please contact us at [email protected].

Connor Cullinan & Janine Stephen

November 24 / 2022


Land where wild things can thrive is vital for biodiversity. Even smaller areas near cities can be islands of life, which help other ecosystems replenish and recover. Through clearing alien vegetation and planting indigenous trees, Connor Cullinan and Janine Stephen, the founders of Ferncliffe forest wilding, are working to expand and restore remnant patches of indigenous Afromontane forest and its grassland fringes on the edge of Pietermaritzburg, a city in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.


Q >First things first — could you tell us about the Ferncliffe forest wilding: how it came into being, and what your vision was for the project when you first started?

CC >We are both very concerned about the current state of the natural environment and the climate crisis. This anxiety prompted us to do something proactive. We used to live in a flat in Cape Town and our way of being proactive back then was by having “weeding sessions”on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. We got permission from SANParks and spent our afterhours pulling up invasive seedlings that had germinated after fire and were outcompeting the indigenous plants. It felt good doing something positive but it also stressed us out to see how invasive plants are consuming our landscapes, even in a national park. 

Then my father, Brendan, passed away a few years ago and his smallholding in Pietermaritzburg was subsequently rented out. In the last years of his life, Brendan was unable to maintain his house and property so we made frequent visits to Pietermaritzburg to help out. It had been a citrus farm, but invasive plants swamped the orchards and killed most of the trees. We decided to transfer our weeding talents to KwaZulu-Natal. The fact that the farm adjoins Ferncliffe Nature Reserve (itself badly invaded by exotic plants) was a big attraction, and so was the mistbelt forest. Our vision was quite simply to restore Ferncliffe by replacing the invasives with indigenous trees. And that is still our vision, although it has become more nuanced: we consider our project to be about restoring the local biodiversity through planting trees because trees provide food and shelter for insects, birds, reptiles, mammals. And, of course, trees mitigate problems associated with climate change. We also propagate other plants, such as ground covers and shrubs because the understory is also vital for a healthy habitat.

Q >How have your backgrounds (Janine — yours as a freelance writer/editor — and Connor, yours as a visual artist) informed your work on the project? 

CC >From the beginning, we planned to make use of visuals to add appeal to our project. Not any old visuals: ones that would go beyond merely informing our audience. In other words, the images we chose or created would, hopefully, set our project apart from other green ones and create a look and feel that would appeal to a visually literate audience. My fine art background has enabled me to make screen prints to sell as a means to raise funds, illustrations for our tree certificates, website and collateral. I also drew on my years of teaching visual communication (graphic design etc) to come up with our visual identity.

JS >Telling stories to different audiences is how I’ve made a living for most of my adult life. Ferncliffe forest wilding is about making a real tangible difference by digging in the earth — but also a chance to tell a story about one special place and its creatures and how things can change for the better if you act. So the project is also a way of sending out smoke signals of change? And yes, editing on magazines and writing stories has helped enormously, from finding sources of the best imagery or expert science, to seeing the project as a complex whole that needs to be designed with care from start to finish. So “Plant a tree” becomes “Which tree?”, and we give people choices to find a species with an attribute that touches them, and then tell its story too: the time a storm saw it nearly squashed by a fallen branch; escape from a roving porcupine bark stripper etc etc. We aren’t just about numbers and statistics.

Q >Who and where do you look to for inspiration?

CC >As a visually-driven human, I find inspiration in art. I spend a fair bit of time looking at artworks in books and on the net. There’s no art scene in Pietermaritzburg so I depend on secondary sources. I’m fond of art history and I appreciate the craft and skill of artists from the past who truly mastered observation and technique. There is a rigour to the work of painters from the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, for example, that is rare today. My interest in craft and observation has value outside of art; in our project, for example. I think these translate as caring for the small things, too. And planting judiciously.

JS >Novels help me see how endless the range of human characters can be. They help me understand people a bit more, maybe! Also, they can change perceptions, which isn’t a bad thing for most of us.

Q >Part of your process involves cooperating with life science experts. Could you tell us more about this exchange and how technology might play a role?

A >As non-scientists, we rely on life science experts for advice. This mainly takes the form of botanists helping us decide what to plant, but in the near future we are getting advice on doing a baseline study of vegetation (with luck, other types of studies will follow). Technology enables transparency. Donors (who typically live far away) need assurance that their money is being directed to a legitimate project. Technology allows them to monitor a restoration project from afar with great accuracy. We are partners or have a presence with three international organisations (UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, Restor, Plant for the Planet) and one local one (SAReforest). To be a partner, one needs to comply with some stringent standards, including ones relating to record keeping and management. We use Plant for the Planet’s TreeMapper app to record the details of every tree we plant. We upload a photo of each tree, along with its tag code, GPS coordinates and measurements at the time of planting. Both Plant for the Planet and Restor require project sites to be uploaded to their sites in the form of polygons. Restor collaborated with Google to enable polygons to be overlaid on satellite imagery of the Earth. We are now using a GPS device to calculate areas we have cleared, which we plan to upload to our website (itself an indispensable piece of tech that is our primary interface with the world beyond Ferncliffe).


Ferncliffe / Aerial view — Photography by David Southwood


Q >Could you tell us about your current partnerships (local and international), and how these will help amplify your efforts and ambitions?

A >We believe that our partnerships with the organisations mentioned above will give us outsider credibility, which is so important in attracting funds and support. In some cases, donations can be channelled from the partner websites to our project. In Pietermaritzburg itself, we are part of the proposed Ferncliffe Forest Management Association, a small group of stakeholders who are active to greater or lesser degrees in the nature reserve. The association was formed in anticipation of a co-management role with the landowner, the Msunduzi Municipality. 

Q >Given the slow growth of trees and plants, can you share what visible results you’ve achieved so far and, once your efforts are scaled up, which impactful benefits you anticipate unfolding.

A >A fair bit of “jungle” has been cleared and we are soon to plant tree number 200, so there are visible results. When the trees mature and begin to flower and fruit (about three years from now, for the fastest-growing species) the benefits to the environment will begin to be felt. We anticipate increased biodiversity as more food and shelter is made available. We’d love to see crowned eagles, a top predator, breed in the forest again, and the return of bushbabies, for example. Job opportunities are a huge component. Our project sites will add beauty, too — something that human visitors will find appealing, so we assume more visitors to Ferncliffe will be another spinoff. Long-term, after we have planted thousands of trees, there will be some carbon offsetting.

Q >What is the hardest part of making your vision come to life?

A >Attracting the sort of funding needed to sustain ourselves and upscale our project. Unfortunately, grants seldom seem to cover salaries, or what’s termed “operational costs”. It’s sad that in these climate crisis days, when everyone acknowledges that the world desperately needs more trees, funding for smaller tree planting projects and salaries for NGO staff is very hard to come by. But we suspect that it’s also about being brand new: as soon as we’ve been around a little longer and shown results, the funding should follow. 

Q >How has your sense of community differed from your teenage years to now?

CC >I suppose that as a teen, community meant close friends and not much more beyond that. In middle age, it seems that some friendships shift and coupled with the demands of work and family life, my sense of community is a bit different nowadays. Probably all exacerbated by the move from our community of Cape Town friends to a new life in a “foreign” city. I’ve also become aware of communities of plants in ways I would never have imagined! And I am more attuned to other natural communities and the remarkable interrelations between species. For example, I now see broad-leaved bristle grass as the host plant for an extraordinary moth called the Wahlberg’s emperor moth.

JS >I was an ignorant teen, cloistered in suburbia and even more inward-looking than most! Later, I found there really was a journalist community, with a sense of shared ethics and values, and jokes. Now, it’s wider society — in the context of a restoration project, it refers to all kinds of people who might have an interest in the forest, or depend on it in some way, even if they don’t realise it (as flood mitigation, for example, or a catchment for clean water). But you have to question whether the idea of a community will become more tenuous as climate change ramps up and competition for resources increases. I hope we can continue as a species to build on the ideal of inclusive communities, but I’ve read enough novels to wonder.


Ferncliffe / Janine Stephen — Photography by Melanie van Zyl


Q >What patterns, routines or rituals define or help to shape your life and its rhythms?

CC >After 16 years of lecturing and other years spent teaching English to foreigners, I’m happy to report that a non-routined life suits me. After years of being on repeat it took some getting used to a life in which you make your own agenda and time frames. Meditation is a ritual that I’ve been practising for 33 years, so that is probably the one routine that I stick to.

JS >Walking through a familiar patch of nature, looking at things, weeding a little as interaction. What’s grown, what’s changed. Happily I can now do that daily.

Q >What is your favourite tree in the forest?

CC >It isn’t possible for me to name only one, so here are a few. A tight grouping of two quinine trees and a Cape fig that have been mature trees since I was a kid. They grow on a stream in a place where a colony of rock hyrax used to live. A broad-leaved coral tree, the only one that I’ve seen here, which grows between some huge boulders atop a hillock. A massive old yellowwood that the woodcutters missed. It lives in a very inaccessible place and I’m going to have to make a trip to it to check which species it is.

JS >Maybe the rather unassuming red currant that was among the first we uncovered from rampant bamboo, and that I thought was nearly dead but put out new sprouts upon seeing the sun.

Q >What’s the most unusual thing you’ve encountered in the reserve?

A >A cannibal snail having breakfast.

Q >What is something you’ve learned in the last year?

A >You have to be tough to do what we do.

Q >Your goals for the next year?

A >Secure funds to keep going; plant more trees than this year; reintroduce indigenous tilapia fish to a dam; reintroduce indigenous grasses on forest edges, make another artist’s print, grow another 750 new indigenous trees from seed or rescued seedlings, clear another hectare of running bamboo, complete the species lists, spend more time walking in the old forest and admiring the trees, finally see the wood owl nest, learn some more scientific tree names… will that do?

Q >Any advice to those inspired by what you’ve started?

A >You can’t do it alone. Anyone who wants to set up a restoration project needs to be prepared to seek out knowledge, funding and people power. The need to employ workers to clear invasives and plant trees can’t be avoided so you have to be OK with that. Planning is vital, but it’s the first steps that are the hardest to take. Don’t doubt the planet needs you, and that so many people will delight in every tree you save.


Connor Cullinan was born in Pietermaritzburg, where he studied fine art at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. He completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Art at UCT’s Michaelis School of Art in 2011. Cullinan has worked as a lecturer from 2004 to 2020, teaching visual communication, illustration, surface design, graphic design and drawing at various tertiary institutions in Cape Town.
In addition to his work on Ferncliffe forest wilding, Cullinan is a painter and printmaker. He has been exhibiting in South African galleries since 1991, including at Obert Contemporary, Erdmann Contemporary, Barnard and whatiftheworld. His screen prints have been shown at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, Cape Town Art Fair and Turbine Art Fair by the South African Print Gallery and in Queretaro and Oaxaca (Mexico) by Rust-en-Vrede Gallery. His paintings and prints are in the Nando’s collection (various countries) and in private collections in Europe and the United States.


Janine Stephen was born in Cape Town, and completed a BA degree in Politics and English at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (where she met Connor). She also completed a BAHons at the University of Cape Town. She has been a freelance journalist for almost two decades following a stint at Colors magazine in Italy in 2004/2005. She has tackled both news, current issues and a wide range of features (interviewing everyone from vigilantes, sexual victims and offenders, to a former president, HIV activists, Alaskan truckers, a Pop Idol, and detectives tracking down cheating husbands). She won an Open Society Foundation for SA fellowship 2006, and has collected a couple of other features awards. The last decade has seen her concentrate more on travel and conservation stories. 
Her work has appeared in many publications, including Business Day, Colors, Carlos, City Press, Delta Sky, the Sunday Times Travel, The Weekender, Marie Claire, Business Day Art, African Leader, the Mail & Guardian, Art South Africa, Neon (Germany), Wild (the Sanparks magazine), Daily Maverick and Financial Mail. 

Ferncliffe / Connor Cullinan and Janine Stephen standing next to a quinine tree — Photography by Melanie van Zyl

Ferncliffe / Young plants in the project's nursery — Photography by Melanie van Zyl

Ferncliffe / Vervet monkey — Photography by Connor Cullinan

Ferncliffe — Photography by Melanie van Zyl

Ferncliffe / Invasive ginger is removed by wheelbarrow — Photography by Melanie van Zyl

Ferncliffe — Photography by David Southwood

Ferncliffe / A newly planted yellowwood surrounded by a bamboo tree guard which protects it from being munched by bushbuck and other hungry herbivores animals — Photography by Melanie van Zyl

Ferncliffe / Wahlberg's emperor caterpillar — Photography by David Southwood

Ferncliffe / Wahlberg's emperor — Photography by Connor Cullinan

Ferncliffe / Connor Cullinan strides through the forest — Photography by David Southwood