Provocation for Wikimania 2018 by Paul Prinsloo

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?


1. Other instances of the use of ‘ubuntu’ in commercial/informal contexts – why would some of these be inappropriate?

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?

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