Life in a semi-urban* African community is full of drama. Houses are very close together, therefore everyone knows everyone else business and no one is afraid to give their two cents to a situation that for urban people may look like a very private matter. The concept of “ubuntu” is even more clear in such communities. Any black african who has grown up in Africa will tell you that it is hard to just think of your own needs first, for us, when one suffers all suffer, ones joys cannot be kept to ones self but must be shared. Because of my up bringing I am a mix of traditional Africa, urban Africa and for lack of better term “Western culture.” I am grateful my parents raised me this way, because of them, I have a greater tolerance for people who are different from me.
I like Leymah Gbowee a Liberian activist definition on “ubuntu” : “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
examples of what ubuntu looks like in my world;
My parents started a church in a very poor community of Maputo (FYI I work with my parents) On the 30th of April, we are going to have a wedding at our church. Now, nothing shows Africans love for celebration more than a wedding. Pictures don’t do justice to the singing, dancing and laughter that go on that day. A typical african wedding without any western influence is a long flamboyant affair! It goes on for the whole day and if a family can afford it, it can run through Friday till Sunday. Marriage for us is not about two people but two families joining together and everyone pitches in to make sure its a success. At the moment everyone in our church is putting aside an amount of money to help the couple on their big day. On the big day, women from church will pitch in to help with the cooking, the youth will help with decorating the church and the men will busy themselves with making sure the drinks, chairs and tables are brought to the home and are organised properly(reception happens at the brides parents house). You hardly hire anything because you know someone who will lend it to you for free! And you really don’t need an invitation as long as you know someone you are welcome to join in the celebration. At the end of the day no one who comes leaves without eating. I am always floored by the generosity of the poor! I hope I will make it to the wedding because I would love to share that day with you 🙂
On many occasions I have seen orphan children some as young as 6 years old who only have one meal a day refuse to touch their plate of food until their friend has a plate to eat and if their friend does not have enough or is not given a plate of food, they willingly share theirs. In my world you never ever eat in front of others if you cannot share your food with them. Sharing food is ingrained in a childs mind from the time they can feed themselves without any help, which is around the time they turn a year old.I know a year sounds so young but for them a child who cannot feed themselves by then is considered extremely spoiled. lol.
Rural and semi-urban Africans are very free with their children. It always fascinates me to see how free mothers are with their babies. At a social gathering, anyone can hold them for as long as they want, and if you get tired you can always pass the baby to someone else who may not even know who the mother is. Parents have this belief that, even if I don’t know who is holding my child I am positive they will treat my baby as if he/she where their own. Ubuntu means raising a child is not just for the parents but it takes a whole community to do it.
There are some aspects to ubuntu that I find annoying and some that I straight up refuse to acknowledge but today I rather not write about the dark side of Africa, maybe another time 🙂
*semi-urban communities, are poor communities that have a mix of traditional african and urban african cultures. “urban african cultures” are those with a very high western influence.