Ukukhonza as an Ethic-Oriented Ontology to Ensure Harmonious Existence among AmaZulu

Author: Nompumelelo Zodwa Radebe (University of South Africa (Unisa), South Africa)
Speaker: Nompumelelo Zodwa Radebe
Topic: Ethnographical Language Work
The (SCOPUS / ISI) GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


According to Wa Thiongo, language carries a worldview of a people and thus carries their knowledge. This means that language is not just about communicating but expresses how people know and see the world. As such, the epistemology of a people is embedded in a language that encapsulates culture. Using the language as an ontological existence of the indigenous people of South Africa, this paper shows the ethic-orientated ontology which is expressed through the concept of ukukhonza – a process where one surrenders their identity in order to belong to the group (this can also refer to worship). In ukukhonza the surrendering of one’s identity is to ensure harmonious living centred on a common identity that is unified by the principles of ubuntu. Drawing on the nuances of ukukhonza this paper argues that the ontology of AmaZulu is centred on respecting life in its different forms because it is believed that everything is interconnected. This provides a different conceptualisation of God which anchors the religion that is practiced in the everyday such that doing good is inescapable. This is an ethic-oriented ontology that when brought forth in its authentic sense can address the many ills of modern society.

Keywords: ukukhonza, African worldview, Western epistemology, religion, Christian God