Ubuntu is a quintessentially African concept. In Africa, the original cradle of humankind, humans first evolved our need for belonging and learned how to develop a sense of community (Nussbaum, Palsule, & Mkhize, 2010).
Ubuntu is the art and quality of being human together and the responsibility that flows from living in community. Umuntu ngumuntu Ngabantu is the Nguni term, from South Africa, meaning that people become people through people and more of who they are through dynamic relationships with other people. Ubuntu is not only about becoming more human in a social context, through basic compassion and respect for others. It also entails a lived spiritual commitment to the growth of all individuals within the group.
There is very little separation between you and me, I am because we are and since we are, therefore I am. Africans have understood this for centuries, and thought leaders in the post-modern west are finally reclaiming this human interconnectedness, re-correcting a learned tendency towards individualism and separateness and now re-discovering a new language for what has always been alive in Africa. Dr Daniel Siegel (2016), an American psychologist recently called this interconnection MWe.
This reflection comes from Barbara’s new chapter, Finding Us in Music: A Method for Deeper Group Engagement in Handbook on Individual and Organizational Transformation, edited by Judi Neale (Springer, 2018).