“MAYIBUYE I-AFRIKA!” A leader stands before her people and lets out an ear-splitting “MAYIBUYE!”, to which a thunderous “I-AFRIKA!” echoes back from the crowd; a familiar scene. When the gathering disperses and we are back to the hustle and bustle of our lives, do we think about what these words really mean?
This, much appreciated blog visitor, is the inspiration behind the MAYIBUYE I-AFRIKA! series which you are invited to follow on A Blog Like No Other over the next few weeks. MAYIBUYE I-AFRIKA! is a 5 part blog posts series which highlights a few of the things which spring to my mind whenever the occasion to utter the words “MAYIBUYE I-AFRIKA!” presents itself. The series will include links to eye-opening historical information and anecdotes. Today’s post is about ‘Ubuntu’. As we celebrate Freedom Day and the 20th anniversary of a democratic South Africa, it’s fitting.
‘Ubuntu’ is best explained using actions but I’ll give it a go using words: ‘Ubuntu’ is the spirit of oneness which exists within a group of people and translates into treating others with compassion and in a humane manner. It is seen when a group rallies around one who suffers a loss and similarly gathers in song and dance when there is a reason to celebrate. It has been beautifully summarised to mean “I am what I am because of who we all are” and is absorbed into such sayings as “it takes a village to raise a child” in the case of children and where women are concerned, “wathint’abafazi, wathith’imboko”.
‘Ubuntu’ is a term used to describe the basis of African human relationships long before any part of the continent was colonised by travellers or, as those who prefer blissful ignorance would say, “discovered and civilised”. ‘Ubuntu’ rang true along the length of the entire continent, even during our darkest hours of turmoil and violence, ‘ubuntu’ remained the African hope, the foundation of African faith. For the sake of clarity, I’m not saying such hope, faith, compassion and humanity did not exist elsewhere, it’s just that I’m on that internal affairs buzz right now. Allow.
Intertwined with our different cultures, ‘ubuntu’ was the way of life of the African people before we knew about foreign religions and ages before we forgot our own languages and spoke those of colonisers with greater fluency. Despite ‘ubuntu’, Africa was not perfect, it thrived. At times, Africans did unspeakable things to each other but those who really love this continent prayed for ‘ubuntu’ to prevail. Most times it did and still does but there are always some crazy wars of varying proportions on some parts of the continent at any given time because some people often lose sight of what matters – they crave power and wealth above everything else.
“MAYIBUYE I-AFRIKA” is a lament for our land and our pride but I believe that deep in the hearts of African people, it is a prayer for the return to our ways and the spirit of ‘ubuntu’ to reign supreme. We can reclaim the continent when we start being practical in our exhibition of ‘ubuntu’. The term must stop being used as a tourist attraction; it must be a way of life or at the very least, the trait for which Africans are known.
We need to change stereotypes about our continent, not so we can look good on international media but for ourselves, for the land we still do not own. We must create an environment which encourages people to be open-minded about our issues and differences so that we may be able to develop lasting African solutions to African problems. It is inexcusable to continue to ignore the necessity to revive the spirit of ‘ubuntu’ in Africa.
There are women who face stoning for adultery, gay people who are jailed for life, babies who are raped, refugees who are burned alive and wealthy, fat cat politicians who rule over underfed, skinny masses. These things happen on this beautiful continent. We can agree that the basis of African problems is vast but there are so many things we can work through if we listen to our ancestors as they whisper from the graves, asking us to live ‘ubuntu’.
Imagine the issues we could resolve if we became practical and repetitive in our habits of ‘ubuntu’. When one person is educated, he or she should share that knowledge with those who need it; that would lift us up. If we could, for one minute each day, stop thinking about money and how much of it we need and do one little thing for someone else, we could lift Africa.
We are so busy, so depressed, so angry, so disappointed and under so much pressure. We have a lot on our plates and as much as we can sit here and blame it on questionable African politics, it’s still up to each of us to turn our own circumstances around.‘Ubuntu’ is the biggest step to take towards reclaiming the African continent and restoring the pride of the millions who call it home.
We have a lot of baggage as Africans but I am certain that if more Africans accepted a personal challenge to make a difference in someone else’s life, support someone in an important venture and help out a little any time they can, we will be further along our mission to return Africa to a glorious state. In fact, the reason that Africa thrives as the pride of its people is because ‘ubuntu‘ has not completely diminished, it just needs to be rejuvenated by our actions so that it can spread and infect us all.
Stay tuned to A Blog Like No Other for future posts on the As Far as I’m Concerned, MAYIBUYE I-AFRIKA! series.