For those that don’t know what Ubuntu is, here is an explanation by the Humanity’s Team South Africa: Ubuntu is generally seen to be pointing to the values and principles that it represents and our humanness and the value of community. It is also thought to be about caring and sharing.
This Nguni term is often tossed around in South Africa without much thought, but it’s the philosophy behind it that can have a profound impact on humanity. Because it’s only through others that our humanity reflects on us. We can only experience true humanity through our interaction with others. It’s a pity that South Africa is often only mentioned when crime statistics are discussed. And it should be talked about. We need to face our problems and challenges – be honest with ourselves and with people that visit our beautiful country. But while we spent so much time explaining ourselves and softening the statistical blow, our wonderful sense and acts of Ubuntu get lost. Researchers and academics have often studied and analysed Ubuntu, comparing philosophies and attributing diverse outcomes to different schools of thought. But for us mere mortals, an act of Ubuntu simply warms the heart, creates hope, crosses racial barriers, feeds connections and brings happiness.
At Cape Town Free Walking Tours, we share an “office” with an array of people – buskers, street artists, the homeless, business owners, law and order officials, tourists – and the “good mornings”, “how’s it goings” and smiles are all the same. We can’t carry the burdens a homeless person has to deal with, but just getting to know a name, donate a pair of shoes, share a joke or to give a genuine greeting, and a ray of sunshine appears in the saddest of eyes.
It’s encouraging to take a group of primary school children on a walk through the city, to show the tech and television generation a piece of history or share a 400-year old story. It’s inspirational when 100 eyes show an interest in what used to be.
There is hope when tens of thousands of people – men, women and children – march together against femicide regardless of the threatening heavy rain.
It gives you goose bumps when guides, guards, coffee drinkers and tourists all gather around one cellphone to see how well a little youth choir from Limpopo is fairing on the America’s Got Talent world stage. At that moment, the Ndlovu Youth Choir sang and danced for an entire nation. Tsamina mina zangalewa. Cause this is Africa.
This Heritage Day, let’s make it a day of Ubuntu with small random acts of kindness, or actively trying to understand and embrace cultural differences. Go out there and greet a stranger that lives or works on the street, smile…