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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ... at Murwillumbah East Public School


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ... This is the title of my favourite poem by Maya Angelou. It acknowledges the song of the caged bird because the caged bird sings of freedom. It echoed around the space at Murwillumbah East last week: an undercover, low ceilinged, caged and lockable spot where the infants gather in rows at the start and end of their day. It’s where their toilets are, it’s where, on inclement days, they shelter. It’s one of the most institutional, depressing spots I have had the pleasure to morph. The space was dismal and dark so I took to the skies … painting a cheerful, mottled blend of yellow, pink and blue; “baby colours”, remarked one infant. Instantly, the space was happier, peaceful, full of promise. Next I painted in green rolling hills, a familiar vista for the students and I crawled beneath low benches for this part. Layers of hills followed in purples and blues to give an illusion of distance. Centre-stage, the region’s iconic Mountain, Wollumbin, a core of what was once the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest volcano. The mountain emerged ... a surreal misty peak with its caldera skirt and beyond the rivers and flats between the mountain and the Great Dividing Range. “Wollumbin is a meeting place”, remarked another infant. I knew I was going to fill the sky with birds from Murwillumbah but this sent me off on a different course. And so they came … birds from all over Australia flying over forest canopies and savannahs to meet, celebrate and sing a song of freedom.

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