Sawubona, is an ancient isiZulu greeting which means: We see you. It is equivalent to Hello and Namaste.

So when we meet and greet I would say “sawubona” [we see you], and you will respond by saying “yebo, sawubona” [yes, we see you too].

Why do we say “We” see you even when it is just me, a single individual person greeting you and why do you respond by the same when it is just you, a single individual person greeting me?

In Zulu tradition, the “I” is connection to an ancient lineage of ancestors which my ancestors are always with me.

So when I meet you, not only is myself meeting you, but my ancestors whom I’m representing meet you too.

So sawubona [we see you] means me and my ancestors see you, and your response means you and your ancestors sees me too.

But sawubona is more than just a greeting, it also means: We see each other, we acknowledge each other, we recognize each other.

Sawubona is an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. It invites us to communicate, to explore the possibilities of helping each other. It means we witness your journey.

Sawubona for me means that as entrepreneurs we need to not only greet our customers, but we need to acknowledge them, to recognise them, to witness them, their feelings, their aspirations.

Entrepreneurs that thrive are those that obsess about their customers.

They invest in connecting with and importantly listening to their customers.

They truly see their customers.

If you don’t see someone, you will not affect them and as a result you are unlikely to effect positive change to them. 

Relationship problems start when people don’t see, acknowledge and recognise each other’s hopes and aspirations.

In moments of conflict, seeing someone whole is both a noble and a difficult thing. It is worthwhile pursuit because that’s where possibility lives.

Seeing goes beyond the physical, it is about the internal, the emotions.

It is about care, about warmth, about doing work that matters.

When we see people, we see beyond customers, beyond sales prospects and beyond a market gap to be exploited.

When we truly see people, is when we see their hopes, dreams and desires.

When we truly see people, we see people who needs our humility, our undivided attention, and our assistance.

We need to see each other more.

Here is my TEDxMahikeng talk on Sawubona:


15 thoughts on “Sawubona: More than just a Zulu greeting

  1. Excellent. I like the way you put all this across … very well done.
    True, our communities would have healthier relationships if we embrace the spirit and meaning behind sawubona. Thanks for sharing. Ngiyabonga!!!

  2. This explanation is truly marvelous. “Sawubona” expresses the idea of communion – of the formation of a bond of a non-religious sort, between two persons. It is the verbal equivalent of a “hug”.

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