MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Helping Words September 15, 2017

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If the words we use to describe helping each other are different in diverse cultural (and language) contexts, does that mean that we help each other differently? Or are we just describing our way of helping differently?

Here are some helping words that I’ve come across, used on different continents:

Ubuntu – Zulu and Xhosa, South Africa. Ubuntu describes the idea of community in Africa: if you are a better person, that makes me a better person because we are all connected. “I am, because of who we are.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu described ubuntu as “…part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours.” The Ubuntu t-shirt is also the bestselling MotherTongues t-shirt.

Maestranza – Spanish. In Season 1 of Chef’s Table (a Netflix original), Francis Mallman describes maestranza as the people who are around you, helping. I can’t easily find more information about maestranza online: is it a word from Argentina, or a Spanish word used widely? Please comment if you know more!

Pamoja, Pamoja – Swahili, Tanzania. This saying, literally meaning “together, together”, is used to describe togetherness as one. When we stand together, we are strong.

Minga – Quecha, a family of South American languages. A minga is called when the community needs to build a school, repair a road, or needs some other community infrastructure. This gathering is hopeful and happy, with families and neighbors coming together to do something that benefits the whole community. Every person and every community will need the help of others at some point. This South American word, which also exists as a concept in other words and cultures, teaches us how to work together joyfully for the common good of the community.

Yuimaru – Japanese. Meaning “the connecting circle”, yuimaru describes the web of life. It is used to talk about the practice of sharing and helping each other out, the spirit of cooperation, taking care of each other.

Sitike – Apache: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. The group of (unrelated) people who will step up and help you in your time of crisis. We all need such a group!

Maybe it doesn’t matter that we use different words to describe how we help each other. Maybe it is just important to go out and help.

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Domestic Violence Awareness Month October 5, 2012

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence started a Day of Unity in 1981 to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and children.

Did you know that 2 out of 5 women will experience abuse or violence during their lifetime? The statistics are shocking.

For the last 6 years, MotherTongues has given $1 of every t-shirt, apron or tote bag sold, to the Center for Women in Transition (CWIT) in Holland, Michigan. This amazing organization helps women and children deal with significant life challenges. I’m proud of how we have been able to help out, in our small way. And thankful for organizations like CWIT all over the country, helping out in the communities where they are located.

This month is a time to celebrate survivors, congratulate advocates, empower victims, and mourn the deaths of those lost to domestic violence. Find out if there are vigils in your community (or organize one), go listen to survivors speak out, and talk to your kids. Because we are part of an Ubuntu community – a community who cares.

 

Mandela Day: what will you do? June 9, 2011

Wikipedia image: Nelson MandelaJuly 18 is Nelson Mandela’s birthday. He will be 93 this year. A couple of years ago, the United Nations adopted the day as an annual Mandela Day. But it is more than a celebration of Madiba’s (his Xhosa clan name and how he is affectionately known in South Africa) life and legacy. Mandela Day asks us all to embrace Madiba’s values and honor his legacy through an act of kindness. How?

Nelson Mandela gave 67 years of his life to the struggle for social justice: serving his community, his country, and the world at large. Mandela Day asks us to donate 67 minutes of time to doing something good, in a small gesture of solidarity with humanity. Can you spare 67 minutes of your life on July 18 to support a charity or serve your local community?

Last year, my mom’s retirement community in South Africa got together on Mandela Day to knit dolls for kids living in poverty. That’s when I realized the influence Madiba had on our country. If the generation who put him behind bars for 27 years, could now serve their communities as an act of honoring Mandela, we’ve come a long way.

Now go do something good. *

* You can find some ideas of what to do, here on the Mandela Day website.

“It is time for the next generations to continue our struggle against social injustice and for the rights of humanity. It is in your hands.” – NELSON MANDELA

 

Ubuntu at the World Cup July 16, 2010

Filed under: Ubuntu in the news — Michelle @ 9:31 pm
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Shari Cohen recently wrote 3 blog posts in the Huffington Post about Ubuntu and her time in South Africa during the Soccer World Cup. In the first one she writes about all the money spent on the new stadiums, and wonders whether it could have been put to better use. Or at least FIFA could have helped with some of the social problems in South Africa.

The 2nd one was very positive about her experience of Ubuntu in South Africa, and was mailed around by South Africans everywhere, and even reprinted in South African newspapers. We South Africans love positive news about our country, probably because there aren’t good news so often… It has been 5 years since I designed my best selling MotherTongues t-shirt, the Ubuntu: I am because we are T-shirt. I love the African concept, even if I know it isn’t true for all South Africans, but I believe it is a beautiful community value to strive towards, doesn’t matter where in the world you live.

So I was glad to read Shari’s third blog today, about what is next for South Africa, after the tourists and the soccer players left. I’ll forever be hopeful that South Africans (and I’m including myself, even though I’ve lived in the USA for the past 15 years) can come together and make a change for the better – even if it is only in your own community. Because that is where change starts.

Thanks Shari, for highlighting Ubuntu – the good and the bad – and for letting South Africans feel good about ourselves, but also making us think about what to do next.

 

South Africa 20 years later: 2 beautiful letters February 6, 2010

This week (February 2) it was 20 years since FW de Klerk’s famous opening of Parliament speech in which he announced that Nelson Mandela will be released (which happened 9 days later). I can still remember watching the speech on television (I was in college) and realizing that this is an amazing speech signifying a whole new era for South Africa.

Here are 2 beautiful letters written recently by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to FW de Klerk commemorating the event. My favorite part is in Tutu’s letter: “If the second of February were to become an annual holiday I would propose it should be called Ubuntu Day. South Africa would tear down its Berlin Wall, you said, because South Africans were dependent on one another – all of us.”

Read and enjoy!

Letter from Nelson Mandela to FW de Klerk


Letter from Desmond Tutu to FW de Klerk

 

Ubuntu & the Nobel Peace Prize October 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 12:24 pm
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An Associated Press article had a great quote from the South African president, Jacob Zuma, about Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win:

South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, cited a Zulu term — “Ubuntu,” which refers to the importance of community — in saying Obama’s “leadership reflects the true spirit of Ubuntu because your approach celebrates our common humanity.”

Any ideas how I can send an Ubuntu t-shirt to Obama? 🙂

 

Beautiful Ubuntu video from Global Oneness Project September 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 9:08 am
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This Ubuntu Video from the Global Oneness Project is 8 minutes of beautiful descriptions, music, sights, describing this South African concept. It explains Ubuntu better than I ever can – although I’ve tried to describe it for the MotherTongues ubuntu t-shirts! I love Credo Mutwa (a traditional sangoma)’s  description: “Ubuntu is nothing more or less than compassion brought into colorful practice.”


 

 
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