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The play had finished. There were a hundred

or so children of Orange Farm township –

a large, informal city of mostly

shacks, few paved roads, limited clean water.

These seven, eight, nine year olds lucky enough

to be in school had shrieked with fearful delight,

laughed with wonder, their imaginations

transforming the double classroom’s bare,

austere walls into Dumisani’s

journey through English, Sotho, Venda

Xhosa, Zulu so he could play his drum.


To thank us, their teacher asked them to sing

a hymn, ‘Waiting at the Gate’. I expected,

as at home, unsteady voices reaching

for monophony but no, here, each child

sang the harmonious line that suited

her or him, an infinite polyphony.


I can see them still – serious, confident,

as if what really mattered to them then

was the eternity beyond heaven’s gate

the words long for – and hear them now, their

culture’s joyful, heartbreaking harmony,

that commonwealth of sound.




Note: UBUNTU has been posted on June 16thYouth Day in South Africa.




© Copyright David Selzer
3 Responses
  • Ashen
    June 16, 2014

    Love that ‘polyphony’ – heartbreaking harmony, that commonwealth of sound.

  • John Huddart
    June 21, 2014

    “Ubuntu” your way into Google and you will reveal the many layers hiding behind this apparently simple poem. Polyphonic in more ways than one. And her majesty should approve the inclusion of the commonwealth, working at a level where it really matters.

  • Sizwe Vilakazi
    June 28, 2015

    The power of theatre cannot be denied. Some people know things by Google – that’s why they believe rubbish. You are talking from experience and that’s what we Africans think matters. Keep it up! From Soweto, with love.

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