It is ignorant of me to assume that everyone knows what Ubuntu means.
There is never a basic way to explain a philosophy, but the premise of Ubuntu lies in the ideas that shared value and personhood is what makes us who we are. Whatever you do in life has an effect on others and on society. Many African philosophers, such as John Mbiti who I have quoted below, have written about the subject. I will delve into more of their works throughout my research, but let’s start somewhere.
“I am because we are“
Growing up In South Africa I was always aware of the idea of Ubuntu, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I really starting understanding what it meant and how powerful it is. I was introduced to the theories behind it while I was studying my undergraduate in South Africa. One figure kept standing out, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, ‘Yu, u nobunto’; ‘Hey so-and-so hasubuntu.’ Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness.
This is quite a big concept to grasp and I needed to break it down into language that I could make sense of and adapt to my work.
I discovered a book, Everyday Ubuntu, by a young author called Mungi Ngomane. Within the colourful pages, she breaks down the lessons of Ubuntu that she has grown up with and presents it to the reader as material that can be understood by all audiences. She also happens to be the granddaughter of archbishop Desmond Tutu, so I assume this is a reliable source for my research.