We use cookies for site personalization, analytics and advertising. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it

We Are Together (Thina Simunye)

Singing for their orphanage – all human life is here.

The title of this documentary gets it exactly right. At the Agape Orphanage, in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, the children have their own choir and sing beautifully together. It’s a delight to listen to. But what’s really striking about these children, whatever they’re doing – singing, walking to school, doing their chores – is that they are not only ‘together’ musically, but also socially.

The parents of most of the children have died of AIDS. Slindile regularly walks to her former home nearby where her eldest brother Sifiso is very unwell, and declining. Eventually he discovers he has AIDS too, and dies. The film focuses on Slindile more than any other child, and she has a co-writing credit with director Taylor. She’s a very emotionally mature 12-year-old, who misses her mother terribly, and the hurt when she loses her brother is palpable. Even though she’s still a child, with a child’s innocence, she has to keep on. Her simple strength, stoicism and generosity is impressive and touching.

A limitation of documentary filmmaking is that you can’t invent scenes. You film what’s there, and if you’re not there, you can’t. The most significant event in these kids’ lives happens off-camera: the orphanage burns down because of faulty electrical wiring. It eventually leads to the choir's meeting American musicians Paul Simon and Alicia Keys. What does it mean to them? Yes, they’re thrilled and impressed, but what really matters is that it can help them rebuild and expand the orphanage.

All human life is here. There’s enough sorrow for anyone’s lifetime; but what stays with you is the simple everyday joys and laughter, the togetherness, generosity and humanity.


New Internationalist issue 410 magazine cover This article is from the April 2008 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Subscribe today »


Help us produce more like this

Editor Portrait Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.

Support us »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop