Ubuntu Story

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

I am because you are


the true spirit of the world

Keep Ubuntu alive

18 thoughts on “Ubuntu Story

  1. Can you hear me now? I’ll have to get back to you. I said, I’ll have to get back to you. I’m right in the middle of a blog. Goodbye.

    And hello to you, my friend. What can I do…I am so sorry. Where were we? Yes. Well, I am a man raised by women and we had this family reunion recently where…O the Attention Deficit thing? I’m off my medications at the moment.

    I liked the Ubuntu idea that no one is diminished or dehumanized but I’m having a bit of a problem with feeling connected and self-assured that I am part of the whole, not threatened by others. Excuse me.

  2. hmm…from what you say,i don’t think it is the opposite of selfishness…for the “Self” becomes the humanity…unless every cell is alright,we can be what we need to be… and i am what others are,for the others are what i am..and i am what i am 🙂

  3. Ubuntu in its pure form is a beautiful way to live. Then hierarchy, ego and other human instincts jump in. Do you think we have enough interpersonal skills to make it work? I can see how it works with very aware people and with people who have strong social programming. I love your blog. Thank you for the energy you’ve put in.

  4. Serenity, thank you for visiting and for your kind words I am glad you are enjoying your “visit” hmm to answer your question… I suppose the best way is with a question from me.

    Why is it not possible? The world is becoming wiser and there are more aware people as you call them. If each one of us infects another with the spirit of Ubuntu, or rather bring it back to life, then it spreads like a virus. In my mind and from what I have witnessed it is more than possible. Don’t you think?

  5. uhmm I first thought u r talking about the OS 😀 I recently moved to ubuntu 😉

    there is a video, Mandela explaining the meaning of ubuntu .. try to find that 🙂

  6. Sanity
    I live in a village in the tiny Island of E’ua and this is how we live, we would not survive without living like this. When we first started to get tourists it was funny, this guy came up to me and said ” Ive been on the Island for over 24 hours and no one has feed me where is the food, funny cause we never thought he wanted any. Where I’m from If your hungry you just walk into the nearest house where you see people eating and get some food. I remember him explaining how where he was from you invited someone to eat and that strangers can’t just walk up and start eating at someone else house.
    Even you explaining this concept to people is funny, Ive been spending the last few years learning your western ways and they are much more confusing. eg: You guys own land where as we understand that you can’t own land the land owns you. Anyway love your blog
    Ofa atu ( this means” love to you” we don’t say goodbye just Ofa atu)

  7. That is profound and very interesting! I like the way that phrase sounds…I am because you are. In another light, you can similarly say, I am what you perceive me to be even though others may see me differently. Right?

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