Friday, May 25, 2018


Languages like English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa are kitchen languages. They are combinations of various inputs. That is why they are so colourful. The (Sweet) Orange is a hybrid fruit. It is a combination of a Pomelo and a Mandarin.

Sweet Oranges were first mentioned in Chinese literature in around 314 BC. How they came to be cultivated around the world has hints in the names they are called in various languages. The word 'Orange' comes from the Sanskrit word... Naranja. The Indo-European languages stretched all the way to Europe. When Alexander conquered the world... he didn't head west, he headed east. If he had been someone who grew up in Apartheid South Africa (like me), Alexander would have been unlikely to make it into a 'white school'. The language spread though... and Oranges are called Naranja in Spanish, and Orange in German/French/English (i.e. Apartheid White). They were brought to Spain by the North African Moors, who had become Muslims through their connections to the lands just south of Alexander.

What is funny, is that Oranges were introduced to the areas Alexander came from, from the west. So in Greek, an Orange is Portokali, Turkish it is Portokal, Arabic it is Boutouqal, and Persian it is Portegal. Like the Spanish, the Portuguese had the Sanskrit name... Laranja. Thanks to the Portuguese traders who 'brought' them this delight.

The traveling cultures had named it differently. They saw it earlier. The Northern Germans call the orange an Apfelsine, Dutch Appelsine, Swedish Apelsin, and Norwegians Appelsin. An apple from China. Even though the Chinese call it Chéngzi. The Russians call it something similar to the Spanish (Oranzhevyy) but the Mongolians (who now use Russian script) show the link between Russia and China (via them) and call them jürj.

The Mongol leader Genghis ruled an Empire that stretched from Poland and Hungary to the eastern edge of modern Russia. The Turks led the Ottoman Empire. Al-Andulus streched Muslim rule from Northern Africa into Spain. The Norman French colonised England and basically never left, but rather melted into the upper classes. The richest man ever to live was from Timbuktu in Mali - Mansa Musa. He too traveled west to look for culture, and famously caused huge inflation in Egypt on route to Mecca because of his generosity.

If we define 'we' by group identities, then we have all had our turn on top and underneath. But lest that give you an air of superiority or inferiority - our tongues betray us. There is only one us, and ideas spread even if they take on different local forms.

Orange Stand in Morroco

umNatha yeMemori

Ngexesha elide ndasebenza nomhlobo wam uLister, ukwakha uluhlu lwamagama aqhelekileyo kwisiXhosa. Ndandiyifunde incwadi ebizwa ngokuba yi-Fluent Forever ephakamisa indlela yokufunda ulwimi. Ibonisa ukuba kunokuba ufunde ngokuguqulela, ufunda ngokwakha iwebhu yezinkumbulo. Abantwana bafunda ulwimi lwabo lonina ngale ndlela. Abanalo olunye ulwimi oluya kuguqulela. Bona izinto kwaye emva kokuva isandi ngokuphindaphindiweyo, kuvuza. Xa bebona umthi, bacinga ngokuzenzekelayo igama. Akunomthi kuphela, kodwa neengcambu, amaqabunga, ilanga, ihlobo, intwasahlobo, imvelo. Iwebhu yezinkumbulo. I-Fluent Forever ibonisa ukwakha loo web ukususela ekuqaleni kolwimi olutsha.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Knowledge Work

When you dig holes, it is easy to see what you have done. It is easy for others to see what you have done. Machines can dig holes. We can quantify that work. When you listen, understand, speak, read and write... tracking progress is much harder. Machines can't do that that well... yet. We can't quantify that work. Unless by number of words, number of views, or resultant countable actions taken. You can't count the depth of relationships and understanding. Adam Smith recognised this as a constraint when he argued for markets to pull through the 'Tacit Knowledge' we have. We may not be able to explain stuff, but if you push decision making down to those with the knowledge... we don't need to explain. Explaining takes time. The best way to explain something to someone, is to take them on the journey with you. The best explanation is time. The problem is, we are all on different journeys. The solution is trust and empowerment. 

Lekker Sop

Die beste ding oor Afrikaans voordat dit 'n amptelike taal geword het, was dat dit 'n kombuistaal was. Net soos Engels voor dit gestandaardiseer was. Net soos isiXhosa aan die rand van die Bantoe-migrasies. Al hierdie tale het op die geure van ander tale getrek. Ek hou van die idee dat ons taal weer na die kombuis gaan neem. Soos sop. Jy benodig aftreksel (wat Engels kan wees aangesien dit 'n globale taal is), maar dan maak jy die sop deur stukkies by te voeg. Die meeste tale was Nasionale skeppings. Ontwerp vir Apartheidstyl Nasies. As ons vorentoe beweeg, sal dit wonderlik wees om tale te ontwerp wat ontwerp is om te luister en te vier. Tale ontwerp vir 'n lewe wat die moeite werd is om te lewe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sincede Sincedisane

Esinye sezizathu endikufumene kunzima ukufunda isiXhosa, ukungabikho kweengxoxo kunye neencwadi. Oku kungenxa yokuba ndihlala eNgilani. NdingumSoutie. Ndizama ukufunda ezinye iilwimi. IsiFrentshi kunye neArabhu zincedo kwezinye iindawo zaseAfrika. IsiSwahili yilona ulwimi olubhekiselele kulwimi lwaseAfrika. Ngokusebenzisa i-Google translate, kunye nokwakha isigama, ndiyathemba ukuba ndiyakwazi ukukhupha ngaphandle kolwimi lwam lwesiNgesi kuphela. Andikwazi ukuhlala ngokwenyama kwiindawo ezi zithetha ngeelwimi ixesha elide ukuze ndizicwilise. Ndizama ukujonga ukuba eli lizwe elitsha, lidibaniswe yiMidiya yezoLuntu, lunokusinceda sincedisane.

Strength in Stopping

There is seldom a reason to rush. Doing something may make us feel better, because it gives the impression we tried. In a world biased to action, sometimes strength lies in doing nothing. Not passively. Doing nothing with full awareness. Waiting. Listening. Focusing. 'When there is nothing particularly clever to do, the potential pitfall lies in insisting on being clever' (Howard Marks). Reality is a complicated, ambiguous, random beast. Fighting it, is meeting it on its terms. It will win. In active stillness, we can build resilience. The ability to withstand the battering, and come out on the other side stronger. There is strength in stopping.

Sometimes the best way to fight the Beast, is not to

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Identity Politics

Identity Politics is when we represent the specific interests of social groups to which a clump of people identifies. Identity Politics represents something people 'are', rather than something that people believe. It stops discussion by creating an us, and a them. We think in categories. Reality is a lot messier than that. The powerful use of Identity Politics is when a group has been oppressed. When that bit of the identity has been used to hold them down. Forming groups around that, allows that group to rise up. The challenge is that those people are far more complicated than that. The oversimplification that was used to oppress is not the thing that defines them. I look forward to an evolving politics of listening. A gradual dismantling of the borders between us and them. That doesn't make us all the same. It does provide choice. A politics of agreed ground rules that empower us to build complicated, interlinked, interdependent, fuzzy, dynamic, real identities. Identity is just a story. Let's make it a good one.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Continental Stories

Melilla Border

If continents are defined as discrete landmasses, then there are four continents (Afro-Eurasia, Americas, Australia and Antartica). There is no 'real' definition. They are spoken of by convention. Carthage and Rome fought three Punic Wars between 264BC and 146BC. Carthage then became the Capital of the province of Africa Proconsulis as part of the Roman Empire. The Mediterranean is a lot calmer than the English Channel. The Suez Canal is shallow, narrow, and man-made. At various times between 711 and 1492, the southern part of Spain was under the control of those who also controlled Northern Africa as Al-Andulus. Today, Melilla and Cueta are two heavily fortified Port Cities which are officially a part of Europe but on the south side of the pond. Until 1963, Algeria was considered a part of France. In 1957, when the European Economic Community was formed... Algeria (as part of France) was part of that group. Pan-Africanism began as a concept in the C20th century. The African National Congress in South Africa was formed as the South African Native National Congress in 1912.