We Americans truly cannot imagine what it is like to live in a “deep African” village. I have caught glimpses by spending time with Sobonfu Some’ and absorbing her stories, but I have never experienced a community living purely in the ways of Ubuntu. Most of Africa has been westernized to some degree, but Sobonfu’s village in West Africa still exists, keeping the old ways. Some may think it is primitive but much of what they practice is brilliant and could teach us a great deal about how to live together. Their habit is to practice rituals to keep emotions, communications and disputes cleared out. They routinely turn themselves over to Spirit and release whatever needs to be cleared out. I suspect that is not the practice for most Americans and so many of us struggle with addictions, depression, and relationship issues.
Sobonfu was the Keeper of the Rituals for her small village and the elders told her she was to leave her home to carry their teachings to other parts of the world. She didn’t want to leave and so consulted with her dead grandmother who inspired her to go. She came to teach us at TLC a few times and I traveled with her in South Africa, so I gained a beginners understanding of living in Ubuntu.
Ubuntu is the ancient African ethic that means that each person is integral to the whole community and exists only in that context. Hence the expression, I am because we are. Imagine a village where one group sets out to hunt for meat and some gather wild plants for food. Others gather firewood and tend the fire, while others make the stew. Each one is equally important so that everyone can eat. Everyone in the village shares everything so ownership as we know it does not exist. Sobonfu would talk about arriving back in her village for a visit and within no time other women were wearing all of her clothes from her suitcase. She told stories of taking her sister’s children to go off on a playful adventure and not telling her sister. Everyone raises all of the children.
Rituals were created by the people and everyone eagerly anticipated participating . The grief rituals were done monthly and all ages attended to clear out any grief and sorrow they might be carrying. Together they build a shrine and very intentionally create sacred space. It is the norm to support one another to express and release all emotions and concerns. Now who is primitive?
When Sobonfu was dying last year, she returned to her village. As was always her practice she drummed from the depth of her soul while her community grieved for her death. How can I not, in my own humble way attempt to carry on her teachings? I realize my efforts will be primitive but I am an eager student of Ubuntu. I will share what I have gathered with all who come forward.