Sawubona is a Zulu greeting which means “I see you”. Encompassed in this simple sentence, is the belief that we are made from the divine so to say “I see you”, means to not only recognize the divine in someone, but to also remind them who they are. Essentially you’re saying to someone “In case we both forgot, you are made of the infinite power of the universe and should be treated as such”.
What’s more about Sawubona is, “I see you” is not just a declaration but also an introspective question. It requires that you the greeter ask yourself “how is this person doing? What is their struggle? how do I have to live so that both of us may be free”? Sawubona requires constant self-examination, to ask ourselves if we are really treating others as the divine beings that they are, to ask if we are doing enough to remind them of their divine status. Sawubona reminds us that self-love, self-esteem, are really community responsibility. That we have to be each other’s Griots, which means to sing each other’s praises, to remind each other of who we are, to return each other to ourselves when we’ve drifted off into a mental land where one feels unworthy.
This is why I love Sawubona, as it simultaneously acknowledge that humanity is difficult, messy and dark, yet we are still made of the divine. How redeeming is that? To still feel worthy of goodness even at your worst, and to know that you are just working to return to that which you already are?
Take a step back from this endless struggle of never feeling enough, of often feeling like “who do you think you are, to want so much of the world”?
Take a step back to bask in your Sawubona, the yin yang of divine and human, of glorious and ungraceful, of light and dark. Know that you belong here, and deserve all the goodness of the world, right where and as you are this very minute. And don’t forget to self-examine to see whether you have done enough to remind other of their enough-ness. Because we and our struggles belong to each other.
Sawubona. I see you. Do you?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.