“Kgotsong” (Peace be with you)
“Ahe! Le kae?” (We receive. How have you been?)
“Re teng le kae?” (We are present, how about you?)
“Re phetse hantle/ka mohau/ka paballo” (We’re well [in mind, body and spirit])
This is the typical structure of a greeting between two individuals, engaging in a Sesotho dialogue. At face value, it would seem the two participants engaged in politeness principles and greetings were referring only to each other. The use of “we” and “you (plural form)” indicates to us that both speakers are not engaging with each other only. They are engaging with each other’s spirits, their families (those on earth and those beyond the river of time). We can conclude from this, that greetings for Africans are more than a mere “Hi, how are you.”
The first line of the greeting, from the initiator of this prayer commands peace to be with the receiver. The peace must permeate all areas of their life and it must be visible even to those who did not know there was a prayer of peace. I personally, would not greet a person I dislike with “Kgotsong/Kgotso”. It therefore goes without saying that you have to wish someone well to greet them ka kgotso.
The respondent replies with, “We receive”. We, my family and I, receive your well wishes and may it be so. We’ve seen people wish others well on our twitter time lines, Facebook feeds or Instagram feeds and the receiver replies with “I receive.” It is the same concept that has been communicated by Africans, in simple, everyday greetings. There need not be a momentous occasion or plea for others to wish you well. This is not to say that boMonalisa do not exist, that’s besides the point.
We then move on to “Le kae?” This is more than a simple question of how are you. It asks where you (collectively) are in spirit, mind and body. It asks the question, ‘Are you well? Are you not feeling displaced in any way? Konke kuhamba ngohlelo na? A tsohle diapere tshiamo na?’
The respondent replies “Re teng, le kae?”, which can be loosely translated as, ‘ We’re here/present, how are you?’. The respondent then says they’re well/present in spirit, body and min. This is how a simple exchange of greeting between speakers can be considered a prayer. It is a simple, but very powerful prayer for wellness, peace and a sense of being. I am reminded of a screenshot posted on twitter sometime ago, where someone sent a greeting to their family whatsapp group saying “Heeey”. Shame, akabuzanga elangeni. Their mother went in bandla. Her argument was how do you greet people, especially your family, as if you’re herding goat and folly? It made sense, this argument she brought forth. ‘Give us your prayers in greeting form and then you may continue with your young people greetings.’ I understood what the mother was saying, completely. Greet someone, ask how/where they are in mind/body and spirit and receive the prayer they give back to you. It is how it was done back then and I hope we will continue these simple, everyday prayers for our neighbours, family and friends.
Kgotso e be le lona (Peace be with you)