A provocation for the workshop at Wikimania 2018 “Ubuntu for who? Equity by Free Knowledge?” by Paul Prinsloo.
I have three Chinese symbols as tattoos. The rationale for having Chinese symbols was that I wanted to have ‘markers’ on my body to celebrate/commemorate significant events in my life – so the symbol on my right arm means – “Determination to the end”, the one on the left arm means “I will not surrender” and the one at the back of my neck means “Buffalo” – a symbol of strength, tenacity, dangerous when hurt, etc.
These symbols were personal markers, but visible for everyone to see (when I wear a T-shirt). I checked their spelling online and was convinced that the symbols were correct. Last year I travelled in the East and this was the first time when basically everyone in the street could ‘understand’/’read’ my tattoos. Luckily they confirmed the spelling (a huge relief) but they were somehow intrigued by my choice not only of Chinese as language but for the reasons behind the specific choice of phrases. While there was general fascination with my tattoos, I could not help feeling somewhat awkward and exposed.
What could have gone wrong?
- The symbols could have been incorrect or contravened some cultural or grammatical norms
- The symbols could have had negative connotations in the original context – for example the symbol of ‘buffalo’
- Some cultural purists may have felt that I overstepped cultural boundaries and appropriated another culture – see the recent outcry when a non-Maori woman had a moka applied to her chin – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5762917/White-New-Zealand-woman-Maori-facial-tattoo-accused-cultural-appropriation.html
1. Other instances of the use of ‘ubuntu’ in commercial/informal contexts – why would some of these be inappropriate?
- Ubuntu software/operating system – https://www.ubuntu.com
- Ubuntu Microfinance – http://www.ubuntucapitalgh.com
- Armed response and security services – https://ubuntusecurity.co.za/services/reaction-services/
- Ubuntu Hairdressing and Salon – https://ubuntu-salon.co.uk and look at the website – initially I thought the clientele would be for people of African descent, but all the models on the website are white!
2. When an international conference appropriate/adopt a cultural value like “ubuntu” what happens/can happen?
3. If we accept the bona fide intentions of the conference organisers and consider ubuntu as “I am human because you make me human” or “I am human because of you”, what do you think informed the choice of the conference organisers?
4. Taken at face value, how does the general notion of the centrality of humaneness, humaning (as verb) and humanity inform open educational practices and resources?