The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Afrique, je t’aime! (Why I Love Africa)

By: Meisha

I first fell in love with the continent of Africa while traveling across West Africa. The diversity of cultures, mixture of languages, beautiful landscapes, and richness of history drew me in.  However, it was the unique joie de vivre and spirit of the people I met from Senegal to Nigeria that made me fall in love with Africa.  Until now, I have never been able to fully express in words what I felt. I have learned a new word in South Africa though that fully captures the essence of the African spirit—Ubuntu!

Ubuntu is a South African word that loosely means humanity to others and is based on a philosophy that a person is a person through their relationship with others.  I have learned from my South African friends that Ubuntu is also togetherness.  Despite our differences we are one. Everyone is treated with the same respect.  And whether or not I know you, I respect you as a human being.  You are my brother.  You are my sister.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once defined Ubuntu as, “the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” 

While Nelson Mandela described Ubuntu as when, “a traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him.”

I have witnessed Ubuntu as far north as Morocco and as far south as South Africa, in the warm (and sometimes really long) greetings that are extended to strangers and friends alike. In the numerous cups of mint tea, meals, and Cokes I have shared with strangers to welcome me to their country.  In the trust my neighbor has in her community, which permits her to let her 3-year-old son walk around and play in the neighborhood without her supervision (she literally goes door to door looking for him sometimes).  Or in the rides that strangers have given me that kept me from walking in the hot African sun.

I will never forget while traveling from Senegal to The Gambia during Ramadan, I got stuck at the border for over an hour while workers prayed and consumed their evening meal.  My friends and I were a little concerned about finding lodging at night.  A couple we chatted with, while waiting, invited us to abandon our taxi and ride with them into The Gambia.  They not only escorted us to an awesome hotel, but the next day they picked us up, took us on a tour, and invited us over to dinner for a delish meal of Chicken Yassa!  This was all done with no expectations.  The couple wouldn’t even take gas money from us.    

I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to visit Africa so you can experience Ubuntu for yourself. Be sure to include activities that will allow you truly mix and mingle with the local culture. I promise you that once you have a love for Africa will also develop in your heart!


  1. Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing. I have been debating moving there next year (not sure where yet) and this fell in my lap today. Are you currently in West Africa and are you teaching?