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