Masego lived in the South African Village of Ukuthuthuka, which means growth in Zulu.
He was a nine-year-old boy who grew up and lived with his Umama and Gogo (mother and grandmother). The two main tribes Ophuzi (yellow) and Mnyama (black), were trapped in a never-ending cycle of conflict that carried a deep sense of dullness within the village. They fought regularly.
As seasons flew, despite the contrasting weather patterns that came with each season, the conflict never stopped. Even when the sun that brought light to life was out, conflict did not die and yet the departure of the sunny season was also accompanied by conflict.
Masego also felt this conflict inside him. It stemmed up from his toes to his head. He previously had a carefree attitude but as time went by this changed. His mother often asked him, “My child, where did your light go?”, and Masego would quietly shrug his shoulders and walk away in confusion.
One radiant morning as the sun awoke the melodies of the graceful birds, Masego found himself feeling different even though the conflict was still present. As he looked outside the window, he observed how peaceful nature seemed to be.
Masego dashed outside to where his grandmother sat and shouted “Gogo Ubuntu, can this village ever be as peaceful as nature?”, he asked.
“Yes, it can Masego”, answered Gogo with a warm smile on her face. “Observe the inyosi, our honeybees and you will find your answer.”
“Ok Gogo”, said Masego excitedly. “One more question, what does the necklace you are wearing mean?” as he pointed at her neck curiously.
“Well, Masego, it is an adinkra symbol called Nkonsonkonson which means chain. It represents two sides connected together in a chain like the togetherness of a community. It’s all about unity my Masego.”
“I know this village will have some sense of unity soon Gogo”, said Masego.
“Yes, it will”, Gogo replied whilst giving him one of her tender hugs.
“I am off to observe the inyosi”, Masego said He walked off towards the village well, where he found a beehive. He closely observed it and saw how the inyosi bees were working together in harmony. It seemed their sense of unity defined them. He realized that bees had to care for each other in order to establish this extraordinary unity. While he was still in deep thought, a phrase popped up in his head which was, “I am as we are”.
The Ubuntu African proverb, I am as we are (umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu) is always supposed to remind us that, human beings are meant to be united just like how both the colors black and yellow are part of a bee, and that similarly each of us is part of a larger collective that makes one.
Written by Tamar Reichelt