Saturday, April 18, 2009


The word ubuntu, pronounced ùbúntú, is a humanistic philosophy that originated from the Bantu languages of South Africa during the period known as the African Renaissnace (post-apartheid era). It represented the idea of human connectedness and interrelatedness.

Stanlake J.W.T. Samkange, a Zimbabwean philosopher, outlined the three maxims of ubuntu.

  1. To be human is to affirm one's humanity by recognizing the humanity of others and, on that basis, establish respectful human relations with them.
  2. If and when one is faced with a decisive choice between wealth and the preservation of the life of another human being, then one should opt for the preservation of life.
  3. The king owed his status, including all the powers associated with it, to the will of the people under him.

The maxims of ubuntu seek to assert the value of human life over material gain and political power.


  1. Ok here goes. This is an excerpt from Desmond Tutu's book "No Future Without Forgiveness" which describes ubuntu in a very beautiful way:

    "What is it that contrained so many to choose to forgive rather than to demand retribution, to be so magnanimous and ready to forgive rather than wreak revenge? Ubuntu.

    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 nobuntu"; "Hey, so and so has ubuntu" 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 caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons," It is not, "I think, therefore I am." It says rather: "I am human because I belong. I participate. I share." A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less that who they are.

    Harmony, friendliness, community are great goods. Social harmony is for us the summun bonum- the greatest good. Anything that subverts, that undermines this sought-after good, is to be avoided like the plague. Anger, resentment, lust for revenge, even success through aggressive competitiveness, are corrosive of this good. To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me. It gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them. "

    I hope that was interesting to at least someone! I love the part that says My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." Beautiful stuff.

    -Michele Soderstrom (Your mom's coworker)

  2. Courtney!! sweet Page.I look forward to reading more!