Posted on
On our recent trip to South Africa, we had lunch with a local businessman, Rob, who had been our guide for a wine-tour on our first visit in 2009.  We’d kept in touch since by e-mail as he’s just a lovely bloke, and very knowledgeable about politics in South Africa (as well as being a true wine connoisseur!)

I can’t remember how we got round to it, but at some point in our conversation Rob reminded us of the word ‘Ubuntu’. (uu-boon-tuu)

…and then he set me a challenge.  “Ask every South African you meet what they mean by this word – you’ll find they all say something slightly different.”

The game was on!

I made a point of doing this – with people I met in restaurants, in shops, taxi drivers, safari guides.  Rob was right – they do all say something slightly different.   Here’s just a flavour of their definitions:

Heart, warmth, peacefulness, something good, respect, tolerance, well-being, together, unity, caring, humanity, everyone is connected, we are all one, rainbow nation, and this phrase “I am who I am because of who we all are!”

Love it!

At Nelson Mandela’s memorial, then United States President Barack Obama spoke about Ubuntu, saying, “The word Ubuntu captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.  He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.”

We often think of ourselves as just individuals, separated from one another.  We are individuals – and we are also part of the larger whole, made of the same ‘stuff’, and we are built for connection.

Although the words may be different, I believe that every culture shares a similar sense of this humanity. Of being part of something bigger.

How we live, how we think, the actions we take, the decisions we make – do all make a difference.

“If you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito”

And this musing gives me an excuse to share one of my favourite video clips of all time – the best speech ever made by Charlie Chaplin from the film “The Great Dictator”.  Find yourself three and a half minutes today, go full screen and full volume, allow your soul to be stirred and remind yourself of our shared humanity:


Finally, here’s just one of the lovely testimonials I received this week.  I’m sharing this one especially because Jon is just about the most down-to-earth and pragmatic bloke you could meet.  He’s a building surveyor, and doesn’t do ‘fluffy’!

“If you’re thinking of attending Kim’s He’Art of Thriving workshop then stop thinking – just go!   Without doubt the Heart of Thriving is the most insightful and heart-warming course I’ve ever been on and its impact on me has been life changing. I no longer get bogged down with negative feelings but now choose to acknowledge them as only the result of thought, smile to myself and then move on to happier things.

If this sounds a bit hippy-ish, then it probably would have to me before attending the course. However, whilst being in a roomful of fantastic fellow explorers , all under the expert, relaxed guidance of Kim,  I went on a three day journey that completely changed that opinion and then changed my life for the good.

Don’t expect a course of PowerPoint slides, handouts and manuals, and don’t take a notebook because it’s the most uncourse-like course you’ll ever attend. Just go with an open mind and an open heart.

But most of all, just go!”

Jon Bury

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

No thoughts on “Ubuntu