The African View of Sustainable Life: Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a widespread African value, particularly in Southern Africa. Ubuntu combines the root -ntu "person, human being" with the ubu- prefix forming abstract nouns, so grammatically it parallels the English term humanity (Ref: Wikipedia). However, this philosophical term signifies more than just humanity, and is not easily translated to a direct Western counterpart.

There are several definitions of Ubuntu: Kevin Chaplin, a South African business executive, describes them in his paper, The Ubuntu Spirit in African Communities, published on the Council of Europe's website. In Zulu, "the word Ubuntu embodies a distinctive worldview of the human community and the identities, values, rights, and responsibilities of its members. It is about 'we' – not 'me.'" Ubuntu means, "I am what I am because of you;" it is about being a part of a community integrated with its surroundings. 

Ubuntu is also about living and growing together. As Nelson Mandela described in a story in an interview about how villagers used to provide water and food when a traveler stopped by and took a rest, Ubuntu is the humanity of supporting each other for the good of the whole community. In the context of the modern, globalized world, Ubuntu is an African take on sustainable living and development: We share resources and prosper together.

At Maki & Mpho, we embrace and celebrate this value with one of our signature designs in our launch collection, Sweet Grass.

Sweet Grass. © Maki & Mpho

Sweet Grass. © Maki & Mpho

The central theme of Sweet Grass is Ubuntu: The layers in each motif represent the generations of ancestors with their roots in ancient Kemet, honoring the early civilization and abundance of human life, and the repeated motifs that create the bird's-eye view of an African homestead reflect the lives of people supporting each other and co-existing within nature.

We are currently printing Sweet Grass and other designs on luxurious silk twill fabric for our launch collection of men's accessories. Leave your email address, and we will let you know when yours is ready!