Namaste and Sawubona, a Zulu greeting

Namaste … I see you!

Perhaps you’ll recall my previous article, where I discussed the significance and meaning of Namaste. In the article, I drew parallels between Namaste and the blockbuster movie, Avatar where the people of Na’vi, inhabitants of the fictional moon of Pandora, used the greeting, Oel ngati kameie or I See You.

Namaste and Sawubona, a Zulu greeting, why the connection? Interestingly since completing my previous article, I remembered a greeting much closer to home, here in South Africa, and not on some fictional moon!

The Zulu people are one of South Africa’s largest ethnic groups, and their greeting is the all familiar, Sawubona which is used by many locals in South Africa, not just Zulu’s. Surprisingly Sawubona also means ‘I see you.’

As a Zulu speaking farm girl, I should have immediately recognised this whilst writing my article on Namaste. However like most Zulu speaking South Africans, I also mistakenly interpreted Sawubona to simply mean ‘hello’, and thus completely overlooked the profoundly significant meaning of ‘I see you’.

And, as the Na’vi explain in the film, Avatar ‘I See You’ doesn’t imply ordinary seeing, instead like Namaste it really means, ‘the God in me sees the God in you’ … I see Myself, in your eyes.

According to Peter de Jager, the Zulu greeting Sawubona means ‘I see you’ and the response, ‘Ngikhona’ means ‘I am here’. As always when translating from one language to another, crucial subtleties are lost. Inherent in the Zulu greeting and our grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence. A Zulu folk saying clarifies this, “Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu”, meaning, “A person is a person because of other people”.

I found this so inspiring I just had to share it. I’ve certainly had a shift in my awareness as a result of this research. I request and encourage you, next time you meet and greet someone, greet them wholeheartedly … take a moment to reflect consciously and actually ‘see’ the person – see them beyond the physical.

By truly ‘seeing’ them you are bestowing one of the greatest honours upon another human being. You are shedding light upon them; a spiritual light that is energising and empowering – this light brings them to life (they exist!)

This is actually so simple!

We meet and greet people everyday especially in a big cities like Johannesburg (or anywhere else in the world) but do we actually take a moment to truly see the magnificence within them when greeting?

Unfortunately we usually don’t.

Sadly, this is actually a reflection of ourselves because by and large we don’t see or recognise our own magnificence. Truth is, it is only when we actually ‘see’ ourselves and acknowledge our own inner greatness that we have the capacity to recognise this in another.

Until next time, let’s meet and greet with awareness and consciousness; I know I will.

Namaste … Sawubona … I see you!  

*Image credit of Zulu man

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