What is the story of the "roofleaf" and what is the life lesson it teaches in The Color Purple, by Alice Walker?

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The roofleaf is actually two things. The roof leaf is first the leaf that the Olinka use for constructing their hut roofs. The roofleaf is secondly the deity that the Olinka people worship in the belief that the deity keeps them safe from violent storms. In a famous quotation from the Walker's novel, the Olinka people explain that while they know the roofleaf is not Jesus Christ nor equal to Him, they think that in a small way the roofleaf is itself a bit of God:

"we know a roofleaf is not JesusChrist, but in its own humble way, is it not God?"

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