Wellness in Zulu

Phila is wellness or good health in Zulu.  Come to think of it, it also means being alive.  It is right there in greetings, in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.

How are you?
I’m well.  I’m alive.

Good health or wellness is a big thing in countries where people live on credit cards.  They buy anything that promises them to be healthier.  Fads about ‘super foods’ crop up from time to time.
People who live off the land, eat what they grow and what nature offers them.  No scientific names, just knowledge about what plants are good for the bones, nursing mothers and the mind.

Phi-la.  The first part is pronounced as in pick or peak, the second part as in language.

A boy’s name.
A boy’s name which means many people should be well.  Maybe there was a sickness in the family when the child was born.  It could be many things.
A girl’s name.  You have made us live or made us well.
U-mama aka-philile.
Mother is not well.
U-baba aka-philile.
Father is not well.
U-Franz aka-philile.
Franz is not well.
Ba-njani abazali bakho?
How are your parents?
They are well.
Ba-phila kahle.
They live well.
U-phila kahle u-Bill Gates.
Bill Gates lives well.
U-phila kahle u-Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah Winfrey lives well.
U-phila kahle e-khanda?
Is your head working?  Are you insane?  This is said in anger.
U-phila no-bani?
Who do you live with?
Ngi-phila naye.
I live with him/her.
Si-phila sonke.
We live together.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness, a South African novel.


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