Barbara’s story

B arbara Nussbaum received a BA from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and was awarded a Beit Scholarship to study social policy at the London School of Economics (LSE), receiving an MSc Econ. degree. After emigrating to the USA, Barbara graduated with a Master’s in Creative Arts Therapies from Drexel University, Philadelphia.

Barbara is a visionary, catalyst and thought leader, born in Zimbabwe and currently resident in South Africa. Her life reflects the multiplicity of cultures to which she belongs: African, European and American, while her work expresses the calling she has always honoured: a desire to weave connection and unity amidst oppression and inhumanity. Having grown up in some of the most unequal societies in the world, it was through her love for music and dance, that she chose to re-shape the conflicted discourse she witnessed around her into some kind of harmony. Inspired by her desire to see a loving humanity she combines the communally expressed humanity of Africa’s Ubuntu with the wholeness she believes that arts can give to people. Barbara’s life purpose is: to re-weave a chaotic world, into one of beauty and connection.

A champion of diversity, and a lifelong advocate of African wisdom, she co-authored with Dr Ronnie Lessem, Sawubona Africa: Embracing Four Worlds in South African Management (Zebra Press, 1996). Her book, Personal Growth African Style, (Penguin, 2010) co-authored with Sudhanshu Palsule and Velaphi Mkhize, foregrounds the power of African wisdom. This book has been a core leadership text for the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, the leading business school in Africa.  The World Business Academy think tank in California has published a number of her articles. In 2003, through this Academy, she was one of the first to articulate the idea that the African philosophy of Ubuntu offers an evolutionary paradigm for global business in the 21st century.

She has also pioneered Finding US in Music. This group methodology offers powerful possibilities for listening to the other.  When the integral humanism of ubuntu is applied to storytelling through music, group engagement becomes intimate, nuanced, profoundly generative and unifying. Her music work, has touched thousands of people in lectures and workshops she has delivered on three continents: South Africa, Zimbabwe, the USA and the Netherlands.  She was recently invited to contribute a chapter on her work, in a newly released book Handbook of Individual and Organisational Transformation. (J Neale, editor, Springer 2017).

“…to re-weave a chaotic world, into one of beauty and connection.”

Selected publications

Barbara has written more than 40 articles during the past 15 years. The first two articles cited here mark her early contributions to the formulation of Ubuntu as a new paradigm for business and are still frequently downloaded.