Mpho Tutu and the meaning of Ubuntu

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Mpho Tutu who grew up in Grahamstown. Photo: Supplied

Mpho Tutu, who spent much of her childhood in Grahamstown was a guest speaker at the Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue on Spirituality, Science and Humanity, A Mind & Life Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, which took place in Gaborone, Botswana in August.

Mpho was there to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama on behalf of her parents, Leah, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. In the end, the Dalai Lama was unable to attend the event.

In her speech, ‘Ubuntu: An African key to Environmentalism and Sustainability’, Mpho’s exploration of the meaning of ubuntu started right here in Grahamstown.

“There is a place called [kwa]NdaNcama in the hills above the city of Grahamstown,” Mpho began. “‘Nda ncama’ means ‘I gave up’. And, 20 years ago, with the taste of freedom still fresh in our mouths, one could look around [kwa]NdaNcama and see that the place earned its name. It was a place of hopelessness, a place of utter despair,” said Mpho.

She spoke of a community centre that was built when politicians came to proclaim a new dispensation at the end of apartheid and recalled the opening ceremonies.

“The building was testament to the failure of the simplest tenets of ubuntu, the wisdom that recognises that people possess wisdom,” she said. “Ubuntu understands that poverty does not mean stupidity any more than wealth means wisdom. The simplest questions might have created a living legend rather than a dead building.”

Read Mpho Tutu’s full speech from the dialogue on the Grocott’s Mail website here: bit.ly/GrocMphoTutu

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