Murals (2008) by PHANTAST - Graffiti - Cultural Music & Art Association inc. - 98 Milne St. Benleigh


In my culture and tradition the highest praise that can be given to someone is,"Yu, u nobuntu" ( he or she has this wonderful quality, ubuntu).

Ubuntu = the essence of what it is to be human.

The definition of this concept has two parts. The 1st is that the person is friendly, hospitable, generous, gentle, caring and compassionate - someone  who will use their strenghs on behalf of others, the poor and the ill, and not to take advantage of anyone. The 2nd part of the concept concernes openness, large- heartedness : my humanity is recognized and becomes inextricably bound to others.

People with ubuntu are approachable and welcoming, they belong to a greater whole. To recast the Cartesian proposition "I think, therefore I am", ubuntu would phrase it, "I am human because I belong", a person is a person through other people.  No one comes into the world fully formed; we would not know to think or walk or speak or behave unless we learned it from our fellow human beings; we need other  human beings in order to be human - the solitay, isolated human being is a contradiction in terms. Because we need one another, our natural tendency is to be cooperative and helpful; if this were not true we would have died out as a species long ago, consumed by our violence and hate. But we haven't. We have kept on because we strive for harmony and community, a community not only of the living but also one that honours our forebears.

But anger, resentment, a lust for revenge, greed, even the aggressive competitiveness that rules so much of our contemporary word corrode and jeopardize our harmony. Ubuntu points out that those who seek to destroy and dehumanise are also victims. Victims, usually, of a pervading ethos, be it a political ideology, an economic system, or a distorted religious conviction. Consequently, they are as much dehumanized as those on whom they trample.

Scan 131420001-1D._TutuNever was this more obvious than during the aparthaid years in South Africa. All humanity is interlinked. Thus, the humanity of the perpetrators of aparthaid was inexorably bound to that of their victims. When they dehumanized another by inflicting suffering and harm, they dehumanized themselves.

It was equally clear that recovering from this situation would require a magnanimousness on the part of the victims if there was to be a future. I recall Malusi Mpumlwana who looked at his torturers and realized that these were human beings too and that they needed him "to help them recover the humanity they were losing".

This is the essence of ubuntu: the only way we can ever be human is together; the only way we can be free is together. (The Most Reverend Desmond M. Tutu, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town).

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