The quality of being human and also humane … The person who had ubuntu was known to be compassionate and gentle, who used his strength on behalf of the weak, who did not take advantage of others – in short, he cared, treating others as what they were, human beings… Without this quality a prosperous man, even though he might be a chief, was regarded as someone deserving of pity and sometimes even contempt … If you lacked ubuntu, … you lacked an indispensable ingredient to being human. You might have much of the world’s goods, and you might have position and authority, but if you did not have ubuntu, you did not amount to much.
In designing WritingRedux, I looked for a limited number of fonts, ideally one serif, one sans-serif and one script, complementing one another. For the sans-serif I quickly settled on Ubuntu, slightly out of the ordinary yet as readable as Helvetica or Ariel. More recently, on another website, celebrating life rather than literature, I again opted for Ubuntu due to its meaning and legibility.
But someone was working on my behalf, allowing me to choose, on aesthetics alone, a font that comes with an inspiring meaning. Spending a few hours in a library, I happened to pick up a book to read, and happened to find this definition of ‘ubuntu’ by Desmond Tutu.
Source: Desmond Tutu, The Star, 12 August 1981, Johannesburg, quoted in Allen John, Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu (Jo’burg: Random House, 2006), p. 347, quoted in Elworthy, Pioneering the Possible (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2014), p. 64