When my colleague at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Ditebogo, invited me to the Royal Bafokeng Nation’s Annual Lecture, I have to admit I didn’t understand at all what she was talking about. During the TPY Project I’d learnt about Mandela’s interactions with traditional leaders, but I certainly hadn’t had any personal contact, well that was about to change!
The Royal Bafokeng Nation is the ethnic homeland of the Bafokeng people. The monarchy covers 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) in the North West Province of South Africa (Source: Wikipedia). Each year the Queen Mother commemorates the first King of Bafokeng, Kgosi Edwards Patrick Lebone I Molotlegi, by hosting a public lecture in his honour.
This year marked the 21st in the series and Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, a South African politician, apartheid activist, medical doctor, academic, businesswoman and author of several books including the most recent – Dreams, Betrayal and Hope, was the guest lecturer (she also happens to be a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the partner of struggle hero, Steve Biko).
Her lecture was wonderful! It delivered a message of both caution and optimism, it brought together for me so many of the questions and ideas that I have both wondered and encountered since my arrival in South Africa.
I am still absorbing and processing but here are some of the snippets of wisdom that I captured –
- Globally there is a growing acknowledgement of the value system of Ubuntu and the principles that underpin who Africans are. Our ancestors knew that no individual could survive alone without the collective. Humanity is destined to live interconnected with one another and nature to ensure its survival.
Africa was chosen by nature as the cradle of humankind.
- The intellectual heritage of the African continent includes science, philosophy, and mathematics but this has been robbed and claimed by Western society. Luckily, South Africa has had amazing leaders who stepped up during its darkest moments enabling African people to move from conquest and dispossession.
- And yet there still needs to be a restoration of the violated spirits. Restoring land equates to restoring dignity and self-respect. Land is the foundation of initiative and wealth creation. If your land has been dispossessed how are you going to build wealth?
- There is an African saying that translates as “where is your umbilical chord buried? that is where you belong”. After what South Africa has been through, people need to be re-anchored to the land.
- The Kingdom of Bafokeng is making great headway in health, education and infrastructure goals for its people, however, has the environmental landscape been considered in this plan?
- South Africa has the benefit of sunshine almost 365 days of the year. Wind and solar energy are the gifts of the gods and we must harness them. Harmony with nature is what enabled our ancestors to prosper.
- Ethiopia is a great example of revival through smallholder farming such as coffee farming and production. Much of this is run by women, as in African culture women are the keepers of the seed, they both store and nurture it.
- We need to shed the colour coded pens in human relationships and embrace the reality that there is only one race. We need to normalize our country as an African country where everyone answers unselfconsciously to being African.
We must jettison liberal economics and its false promises.
- Youth unemployment is a stifling issue across South Africa with 6 million children that are not in training or education. Young people need to hear the wisdom of their elders. Intergenerational storytelling and promotion of the use of African languages is so important, for when you lose your language you lose your culture.
Now you can probably see why I am still processing –
Firstly, in terms of intergenerational story-telling and cultural heritage, my mind turns to the #MaSisulu100 centenary project on the 1956 Womens’ March that is just starting up… I’ve been wanting to help but unsure in what capacity, but now I am sure I must act.
Secondly, during my meeting with Wikipedia’s Asaf Bartov, he mentioned a project that was starting up translating every single language into linked data, I can’t find anything on this online, so I’m going to get back in touch and see where that is at.
Finally, just in case you are wondering, yes I did get to meet the Queen, I gave her a very awkward curtsy and a small gift from where my umbilical cord is buried.