I am only because you are.
It’s a South African principle that essentially means that no man exists in a vacuum. That everything we become is a direct result of the people we come in contact with. And that our own humanity is richer because of the humanity of the men and women who join us in our existence.
Otherwise known as “Ubuntu,” the philosophy which became popularized in the 1950s and mainstream following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, serves as the basis for Nompumelelo “Mungi” Ngomane’s newly released book, Everyday Ubuntu. This is the very book that was just added to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s royal library.
“I specifically wanted to get one into Megan’s hands, because I think that from what I’ve seen of her, she seems to be someone that embodies Ubuntu,” Ngomane tells ESSENCE of why she requested that the Royals have a copy of her work.
Ngomane is the granddaughter of renowned anti-apartheid activist and Noble Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. Her literary work is a collection of lessons that weaves together the diverse stories of those who practice Ubuntu and packages them as a guide for incorporating the doctrine into everyday life. When she realized her grandfather would be meeting with the Duchess of Sussex, she used the opportunity to get her book, which was released in the UK and hits bookshelves in the U.S. early next year, in front of one of the most talked-about women in both the United States and across the pond.
“I had seen an article saying that they were going to be traveling to South Africa and were going to meet my grandfather. And my grandfather’s not very good with celebrities,” Ngomane says of the patriarch’s overall nonchalance to superstars. “He went to dinner with Beyonce once, and he came to us and said, ‘I’ve had a lovely dinner with this woman, and she had such an odd name, I can’t remember it.’ After a while, my cousins and I finally figured out that’s who it was, and we were like, ‘This is the most embarrassing thing ever.’”
Though Tutu may not be invested in the lives of Hollywood’s elite, he is particularly devoted to living his own life with reverence to the Ubuntu theology. He’s passed his respect for it down to his family while continuing to share it with the rest of the world. As Everyday Ubuntu hits shelves globally, his message is going even further. And with an endorsement from one of the newest additions to the Royal family, well, it’s likely to take off.
Last week while visiting South Africa with The Justice Desk initiative, Markle wrapped up her visit to Cape Town’s Nyanga township with a speech there. During which she said, “On one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of the Royal Family, I want you to know that for me, I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of color, and as your sister.” Speaking over cheerful applause she added, “I am here with you, and I am here for you and I thank you so much for showing my husband and I the spirit of Ubuntu.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect. She has no idea the book is waiting for her tomorrow,’” Ngomane remembers thinking after reading the headlines. The Atlanta-based author has a deep appreciation for the work Markle and husband Prince Harry are doing and hopes that Ubuntu is something that she continues to incorporate in the causes that she pushes.
“You know, there are so many different philosophies that we try to follow and commandments and religion, but I think there’s something that’s not necessarily structured about Ubuntu, and I think it’d be a great thing for her to share with the rest of the world, especially the U.S. and the UK,” Ngomane tells us.
The holder of a master’s degree in international studies and diplomacy has had years to practice Ubuntu. But as the granddaughter of the Arch Bishop, she believes there’s no better time than now for the western world to accept and embrace it. “My grandfather would often say, ‘Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument,’ Ngomane shares. “And I think in these times, especially here in the U.S., that is something that’s increasingly more necessary.”