Ubuntu in a Can

image No I am not talking about the operating system, I am talking about an African saying that has been blown out by the Western world.

What is the real Ubuntu?

Pronounced as uu-Boon-too or uu-Bun-too.

Ubuntu, also known as Unhu in other parts of Africa, is an ethical philosophy held by many Africans and now Westerners (First World) that focuses on how we treat one another and the purpose there of, why we do. It’s a word describing an African world view, which translates as “I am because you are,” and which means that individuals need other people to be fulfilled. It is a way of living, it is how you treat your fellow man, it is how you respect them and understand that their beliefs help form the bigger picture, their situations are for purpose.

So many people try to explain it, put it into words, but often come undone with the mere fact that it is more a way of being, it is a feeling, a way of living, the way you are and not easily explained in the context of words. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in my books, gave the best description by far with his words

“It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanise them.”

Another way of putting it is in the Zulu sentence “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” meaning a person is a person through other people.

Nelson Mandela describes Ubuntu as

A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you be able to improve?

The western explanation of Ubuntu I think is “one hand washes the other”.

In reality we can not survive without each other, we breathe, we live but all the while we only truly survive when we are helping each other. Ubuntu is the opposite of selfish, it is the opposite of envy and greed and the most beautiful thing about it? It isn’t linked to any religion, it is the heart beat of Africa.

All things in the world are as they are meant to be, it is all part of the bigger picture and no one man is better than the other, we are all equal.

Sadly not all Africans follow the ancient teachings of Ubuntu. As it is in any culture old traditions get forgotten and times change, it doesn’t mean it has to die.

We can not be one without the other, Ubuntu, it is the true spirit of Africa

Keep Ubuntu alive

I am African, I am Worldian, I follow Ubuntu how about you?

Post Note: Please take note that when I talk about Africans it may not be as the “world” sees it, I am not talking about race, the colour of the skin. No I am talking about anyone who is born on African soil, they are all Africans.

ubuntu1 copy

27 thoughts on “Ubuntu in a Can

  1. Well that is why the name was filched for the Operating System – a community of users helping each other.

    Question: I see three men robbing a shop and they ask me to help them carry their ill-gotten gains away. Is that Ubuntu or does the phrase encompass only good things?

  2. Wows, sanity. I am finally back to reading the talent in the blog world. Yours was one of my first stops. I shall think about this, say this term aloud. Hopefully, let it ease into my daily actions.

  3. Eugene – welcome china!

    @mmo that is the paradox? I’ve sworn not to get in to it today so that is what I am going to do… keep my trap shut lol

    Pat, if anything its quite a cool word to confuse people with! Thanks you!

    Blacklin – anytime!

    Joy, hun, I am worried… is there something that I should know? Apart from the fact that we must never get together to party, anything at alls??? Spill, come clean… lmao nutter

  4. ISF – I know that I expressed what this post meant to me in a private forum. I have given you feedback for it there. But I want everyone to know just how much this post touched my inner soul. I think I am going to add this to my personal philosophy as a catch phrase. Maybe even to my blog sayings next to today I breathe, laugh and live…..

  5. Africa would be honoured, I am glad that it has touched so many people – we sometimes forget just how meaningful our traditions can be. You are a sweetie, thanks!

  6. I had missed this entry on your blog before. I am honored and will wear the badge with integrity. It is a beautiful word and a beautiful way to conduct ourselves as humans and to live our lives………

  7. What a beautiful concept! I had not ever heard this term before, but it resonates deep within me as to how I believe about the role we play in each others lives.
    Can I borrow and share this?

    Thank you…

  8. Wendy, glad it resonated within you and that you feel as I do, the world is a better place for having you in it. I mean that sincerely – the more that have Ubuntu the greater chances of the world healing. I look forward to reading *grins*

  9. “They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated,and diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are”.
    I may never have heard the word,Ubuntu until this evening, but I “felt at home” almost immediately. The principles are those my father impressed upon my mind from my earliest childhood.
    “Mary,” remember this he often said, “An Irishman is nothing more than a black man turned inside out.” I was brought up to look upon all races as distant “kin”, and woe to my backside if I was ever caught demeaning a person becaused of his or her skin color.

  10. Mary I think you were very blessed to be surrounded by a family that believed in Ubuntu as yours does. An old African philosophy that is lived by millions, the spirit that we carry within us, who we are. Each time I hear of another that feels the Ubuntu home sparks another light within me and makes me glow with happiness. Thank you and welcome to my humble abode. Keep well and safe. SF

  11. I have seen Ubuntu “around” the web lately and the “badge” explains it for me, however this explanation is educational, enlightening and a way of life that I strive towards constantly..most days successfully!!! Thanks

  12. Connie, it is indeed an on going thing for we are all human but ultimately it isn’t perfection, just a way of being. Thanks for the visit and the kind words, soon there will be an Ubuntu blog… it’s in the making as we speak!

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