Pioneers in Adaptive Leadership

Ubuntu means community. That’s the simplest way I know how to describe it. Community is relationship. The relationship that the individual/ self has with the whole, indistinct from the whole, caring for the whole. It is relationality – the embodiment of everything from people to memory, to all the elements (fire, water, air, earth, spirit), understood through indigenous ontology which recognizes that all living things are related and that relationships don’t just shape our reality, they are reality.  Community.

Everything that we create is in service of community. In community not only is there meaning, there are all the things that make us human. In community, we are seen, we are heard. In community, we are appreciated and loved. In community we live, we struggle, we have our joy and our sorrow. In community we find our healing and our healers, and we also find those who cause our need for healing. You have a common unity, a common understanding that informs the communal reality that we come to through communion.  

Everything else flows from that. It is the well that sustains all who drink from it. Community.

Family comes to mind. In the African family, we are a network of families. We are clans, because in Africa our kinship extends beyond the nuclear family to the totemic family, we are the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters. We are the generations that come before, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the ancestors. Concentric circles in the middle of which is our shared humanity. Not the individual/self at the centre. It is something more communal, that everyone draws from, that everyone replenishes. It is a constellation, an image of fractals made of intersecting concentric circles. 

It is caring for the children of the village and the elderly, responsibility for the rivers and forests, bringing in the harvest, helping a neighbour. Sharing the little that we have and the abundance that we are. Investing in celebrating a wedding, the union and strengthening of bonds. The extravagance of the way we celebrate. How we think about ventures and business, trade and economics. It is not about the king of the hill. It is the cattle (and wildlife), the land, nature, the hill itself. Health and well-being of all these. Children, and raising them well. Being a decent human being, an umuntu, that can be worthy of that name. It is the coming together in communion to witness the transition of a life. Doing the work of ceremony, and rites as much for the disembodied as for those still walking the earth. Community.

Despite the fragmentation, fracture, and dismemberment from the whole that the colonial project has wrought. Despite the broken structures, dismantled institutions, the entity unrecognisable even to itself, that sees itself as unique, and as singular, as an individual. Despite the obsession over possession…of things, of power, of ideas, of people. Despite the extraction, the pillage of the earth and everything under it, in order to build everything over it, to impress others with power and dominance. Despite the cult of personality, cult of selfies, cult of kings and queens with no true kingdom or queendom, with self-proclaimed messiahs preaching to followers that tap on screens to express, to impress, to celebrate temporary fixes… 

Despite all of this…

…are the people (persons -including all living beings present past and future), many more of us than not, who collectively remember, (as my elephant totem – the quintessential keeper of memory) how to be. At times begging us, admonishing us to, pleading with us to return…to return to each other. And that requires leadership. A leadership espoused by King Moshoeshoe who knew that “ke morena ka Bato” – I am king by the people, for the people, of the people. Leadership from each and every one of us. Leadership that reawakens hope and possibility. Leadership that invites us back, back into the only home we truly have. A house built, like my beloved birth place Zimbabwe (meaning house of stone), on a community of stone that stands firm Community.

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