• P.O Box 170, Lupane Zimbabwe
  • info@africanfoodrevolution.org

Ubuntu: the African identity

Ubuntu: the African identity Image

Posted on 18 February 2020, by Nolwazi MHODİ


Africa is known for its vastness and diversity, however, much of this view has largely been projected by western media and not by African themselves. This in its entirety is not misplaced, yet, it is not considered fully accurate according to the African perspective. Africa is the second largest landmass on the sphere after Asia, its vastness extends beyond, culture, people, language and development, nevertheless, there is an underlying element that can be found across all spectrum of the African society, and this is the spirit of Ubuntu.

Furthermore, Ubuntu is considered to be an embodiment of values of connectedness, brotherhood, cooperation, and respect. This is the bridging element that brings the seemingly divided Africa into a connected ecosystem. Africans believe ubuntu to be the great spirit which chooses to express itself in different ways as it is itself is all together infinite and unlimited. Africans therefore, strongly believe in brotherhood, such that being African extends beyond just being born in the cradle of life or having the black melatonin pigment of color rather the application of this Ubuntu value qualifies all humility to be accepted into the African system.

Undoubtedly, Africa is aware of this projected disintegrations due to its colonial era, whereby, out of the European system of conquest and governance borders and demarcation were established. These borders though recognized today, by Africans as tools of organizing society and participating in international politics. However, on an individual level, Africans do not consider these borders real. Borders do not exist in the African narrative because of the shared resources such as rivers, mountains, animals amongst others. Notably, it is this connection is that perpetuates the ubuntu value more. Prior to colonization, there was vast free movement within the continent. This movement allowed for an exchange of more than values but also biological connection across cultures, such that in most cases an individual African can trace and identify at least more than three ethnic relations. These relations stream across the same country and other states due to the intermarriages, language exchange and the commonality in food, Africans apply the value of Ubuntu in their governance structures and general way of life, for example, Zimbabwe which is located on the southern peninsula of the African continent, has been undergoing economic challenges for more than a decade. It has been kept afloat by the support of South Africa in negotiating trade and free movement agreements. From this example we can see, that ubuntu-ness is also exercised even both on a domestic and regional level.

What is more, Ubuntu is the backbone and the definition of being African. Africa, therefore, has more in common and is in unison far more than it is currently understood by the international community. The challenge that Africans are endeavoring to overcome is, how to showcase an accurate projection of Africa. That is to say, branding Africa not as others see it, but as Africans themselves see it. In this rebranding effort, Africans stand united in showcasing their similarities in what is generally known as the same difference. This expression, same difference, is just a new-age expression of Ubuntu as it simply explains how Africans are the same in terms of Ubuntu and only differ in terms of geographical location. Geography is considered to be the element that creates the seeming difference as tribes have had to adapt to their environment in variable ways, yet the spirit of Ubuntu has remained unchanged.

Given this ideological standpoint the desire to be understood, many Africans strive to demystify much of the stereotypical views that have been long-held. Generally, Africa is synonymously identified with issues such as poverty, war underdevelopment, and other challenges. These though are real, they are only but a portion of a greater whole. The bigger picture of Africa includes success, property, abundance, vibrancy, and life much to the contrary of the one-sided and indeed incomplete notion. Africa is a continent that is full of opportunity, it is more than merely a tourist destination but also a growing and active center of commerce and development,

On the downside, this outlook had been popularised and globally accepted that it impacts can also be seen in Africa and African themselves. Because Africa has been long viewed in this negative light, it has slowed the rate of growth as Africans themselves have fallen into a dampened state as they too have come to accept this notion. This has led to intensive brain drain which has left Africa under-resourced and therefore creating slow growth. The upside of this movement is the provision of access for the Africans to reach different parts of the world and set the record straight on a micro-level. This clearing of the mist is also been aided by technology whereby platforms such as social media are allowing Africans to speak and share about themselves. The explosion of information and connections is creating a revival also on the African continent as Africans have been a new lease of life.

The question that now arises is, are Africans ready for the change in identity as it brings new experiences. With the demystifying, Africa begins to be seen for who she is and there is already an influx of explorers as evidenced by the rising number in Chinese settlers in some African states. The answer to that is, Africans are willing and capable of living with other races as they will be anchored on the value of Ubuntu. Africa will be able to sustain these new relations and brotherhoods by continuing to apply the values of ubuntu and sharing them with humanity. In conclusion, Africa has begun to speak, and the language that it wants to share with the world is that of Ubuntu. African continue to push forward these efforts. Hopefully soon, the real identity of their majestic continent will be known and enjoyed. After all, Ubuntu is about enjoying the differences which make us unique without eliminating the prevalence of the common connections that bind us as humans.

Compiled by

NOLWAZI MHODI