The most common greeting in the Zulu tribe is Sawubona. 

It literally means “I see you, you are important to me and I value you”. It’s a way to make the other person visible and to accept them as they are with their virtues, nuances, and flaws. In response to this greeting, people usually say with “Shiboka”, which means “I exist for you”.

Why this introduction you may ask…Ask no more …

Sunday Seth says …

Are we part of us?

Liberty is a state of mind. It can be seen as a chance for freedom, or a promise made but not kept. We can choose to be part of something or choose to be apart.

Liberty is the offer and promise and requirement of responsibility. A willingness to connect and to offer dignity in response to those around us.

Independence is actually about cooperation and interconnectedness.

Yet we’ve set up systems that limit what we see, how we connect and insulate us from the hard work that’s right in front of us.

One of the most important words I know doesn’t have a simple English equivalent, which says a lot. Sawubona, a Zulu term, means, “I see you.” Not just your face, of course, but your hopes, your dreams, where you came from and where you’re going. It’s not something we’re good at, and I need to do it better.

Figuring out the best way to see and understand and care about the people we call ‘us’ can be difficult indeed. And essential. (Thank you Seth !)

I was dragged out of my current state of self-pitying…hands and feet not exactly cooperating lately by the conversation (read texting 😊 ) with one of my oldest friends (Yes, I dare say we are or at least have become friends ).

I am so fortunate to draw inspiration from so many people in my life. Yes it’s not easy living with this thing we label MS but…BUT, there are so many people out there who have suffered , are in pain and who face the challenge of lifting their chins and carrying on.

To say they are inspirational is an understatement, much as I wrote earlier in commemorating those who have given their lives for Freedom in the name of Humanity.

Inspiration is what gives us hope, motivation and sometimes just enough of a kick to get up and crawl forward. We need it from many avenues, parents, mentors, leaders ….

They are the Silent Warriors. (mmmm let me get back to that thought !)

So cultural history from the land of my birth 😊, that’s Kwazulu Natal in South Africa !

Sawubona: I see you as you are

In Western culture, the most common greeting people use is undoubtedly “Hello, how are you?” Most of us express these words quickly and without waiting for a response. This is a shortcut to a conversation.

It’s a fast and easy greeting that allows us to look like we care about the other’s well-being, but it’s also quick. We rarely look into each other’s eyes. Because life is so busy and pushes us forward, we feel as if we have little time to sit, interact, and really get to know the people we interact with.

The Zulu people promoted the need to see each other slowly and as they are. They look for moments where they can maintain eye contact with the person they’re talking to. They have learned how to feel and listen to other people. Zulus have learned how to embrace another person’s soul and how to find and heal other people’s dark corners and wounds. It’s important to them to have healthy, contributing citizens in their community.

Sawubona is a word that reminds us to trust one another. It reminds us to see the other person as they are and pay attention to them. We have to authentically understand them and see their needs, desires, fears, sorrows, and virtues. Who wouldn’t want to be seen this way? It’s really enriching to make another person feel seen and giving them a space to be heard.

Of course I suspect that is why James Cameron “borrowed “ this concept for that epic movie …AVATAR….I see you !

This weekend has seen our brothers (and Sisters 😊) in the USA celebrate their 4th July  Independence Day ,(Independence from Great Britain mind you )

This from the Stoic page a day is really inspirational too, and a simple message , Protect your Flame.

(Back to the Zulu culture), Some people have found similarities between the word Sawubona and Hindi’s Namaste. These are more than greetings. They’re ways to enlighten the other person by communicating how important the other person is to you. There’s an immense beauty in these gestures. There’s something healing and even cathartic about them that can serve as inspiration in our daily lives.

Shikoba: I’m relieved to know that I exist for you

When someone from the Zulu community commits an inappropriate or offensive act, their presence is required in the center of the village. Their neighbors, friends, and family make a circle around them. For two days, they go to the person and greet them by saying “Sapubon”. They start reminding them of their good deeds, virtues, successes, and great qualities.

For the Zulu community, as well as for Rousseau, no man is born evil. Sometimes, crises and imbalances make us stray away from our natural goodness. The purpose of these meetings in the center of the village is to remind the person that they’re actually a good person at heart. In turn, they also show them how important they are to the rest of the community. The purpose is to praise them and give them visibility so that they can return to a path of harmony and joy.

Therefore, each time a member of the community addresses another with the word Sawubona, the other person responds by saying Shikoba. This expression creates relief and happiness because the person who thought they were in trouble because of their bad acts gets a second chance. The community gives them an opportunity to start over.

The reference of these extracts is a site called (

The Zulu people believe that human beings exist only if others see and accept them. The community makes the person. Therefore, nothing is more satisfying than being forgiven after a mistake.

Feeling loved and accepted is something we all crave.

Writing this had made me realise (Again) how my hands and brain have been misbehaving lately, kinda like typing wearing boxing gloves…😊

So, getting back to the Silent Warriors, not the heroes of the WW2 but a musical group in the USA (early- late 70’s)

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

– Sun Tzu

One of favourite albums …probably that not many have heard of is called Silent Warrior by XIT

Who ??? You may ask , so I will tell you !

(Quite possibly much like Rocky Horror, the Wall, I think it was banned in South Africa!)

Released in 1973, “Silent Warrior” was the second of two albums that XIT released on Rare Earth Records, a subsidiary label of Motown.

The songs on the album address a range on topics concerning Native Americans.

Songs like “Awakening,” “Birth,” and “Anthem Of The American Indian” address more spiritual aspects on Native American life.

Others take on a more political message; “We Live” addresses how Native Americans endure despite the wrongs that the white man has forced them to endure; “Reservation of Education” is a criticism of both of the former practice of sending Native American children to Indian Boarding Schools and of continuing mistreatment and misrepresentation of Native Americans in contemporary settings; “Young Warrior” echoes similar sentiments of other minority groups of this period of being expected to fight in the white man’s war for nothing in return.

The lyrics are sadly beautiful, this from “We Live”

You took away the nature
And beauty from our eyes
You left us with a story
Scribbled with your lies

And iconic , Reservation of education

You’ve been born
Into a world of sorrow
You’ve been born
To try and change tomorrow

When I was young I heard of fate
But not the word segregate
Oh I was raised in boarding school
And I was taught to ridicule

When I was young I heard of hate
But not the word discriminate
Oh I was told my way was wrong
And I must change to get along

When I was very young
So very, very young
It’s a reservation of education
It’s a reservation of education
It’s a reservation of education
It’s a reservation of education

These albums are well worth the listen.

I’ve been surprising myself …just one espresso a day for the past week(s)

Why….Good question, it hasn’t allowed me to sleep any better , same degree of energy too 😊…I guess just because… I can (?)

Some things I cant do without though .

Coming back to those people I am fortunate enough to call friends. Don’t ever think that your existence isn’t important for someone, in everything you do you are an inspiration.

Be safe in the week ahead, and guard your flame.

OOOOOOH before I forget …if you have clear skies tonight the moon is putting on a show!

Published by Daniel Taylor

MS Warrior with an affinity for 80's New Wave music and deep philosophical ramblings...and coffee , definitely coffee

5 thoughts on “Sawubona

  1. A thought-provoking discussion of the richness of Zulu language and the interdependence of humankind. Something else we can learn from the Africans is that many cultures require you to sit and talk about your life, your health and your family BEFORE you discuss what you came for! It’s just another small way we can see others as individual humans, not just as an instrument of whatever prerogative brought them to your door.

    Covey was good at making the case that dependence grows into independence, but that those who are ready for further growth go on to achieve interdependence. True freedom is not the right to do anything you wish, but your right to mould your actions around the central foundation of the common good.

    Chat soon!


  2. Very interesting post, I love cultures, there’s not a day I walk down the street and don’t hear at least 6 languages… I’ll have to read this again, it’s intense.. loved it..


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