To emphasise it’s South African heritage, SAFIRE’s federation hub uses the name iziko within its entity ID and as a publicly visible website address. While it’s not expected that many of SAFIRE’s users will notice this, it is worth explaining the origin of the hub’s name — particularly for those outside of South Africa who may view it in metadata.
The word “iziko” has similar meaning in isiXhosa and isiZulu, two of the most widely spoken languages in South Africa. It is variously translated as “hearth”, “fireplace”, “center” or “hub”. In some contexts, it can also sometimes mean “institution”, particularly one that is a center for something.
In many African cultures, the fireplace or iziko occupies the central space of the traditional homestead. In addition to the obvious role of cooking, it provides warmth and security, deterring animals from wandering into the homestead. The space the fireplace creates serves as a hub for many of the social activities of the household: it is here that stories are told, knowledge shared, and important cultural traditions — dances, rituals, and ceremonies — take place. While many of the traditional homesteads found in Southern Africa are divided along gender lines, the fireplace is a space where all are equally welcome.
Many parallels can be drawn between the narrative of the iziko and the role of the hub in our federation. The hub is where participants come together to exchange stories (attributes) with each other. It facilitates the vital ceremony of consent, and provides security for participants. Whilst the federation is composed of both service- and identity-providers, each unique in their own ways, the hub is a neutral space appearing as either service- or identity-provider as appropriate.
Thus in a sense, the hub is the iziko of our federation space.