Thursday, 13 April 2017


Above: Me and Michael for our gig poster in Adelaide

I am a 31 year old traveling musician. I have not had an official job since 2000. In that year I was sacked from Etravel Tour Company where I had to drag reluctant American kids around half of Europe in a week. I got sacked for growing a beard on tour, wearing revealing shorts and taking the kids skinny dipping while entrusting their passports to a nice Turkish guy in the Englishche Garten in Munich. So 10 years later I somehow landed a job helping Mrs Rita Martucci teach art to kids from age 5 to 13 in a 'new arrivals' primary school in an underprivileged part of Adelaide called Ingle Farm! New arrivals means it is a school which helps immigrant children integrate into Australian life, so more than 70% of the school seems to be kids of diverse ethnic origins. From Columbia to Uganda and Russia to Borneo. We counted over 25 different places of birth! and as many mother tongues!

Here is a collection of all the funny things that happen in the school! I hope you enjoy it!

Week I
Monday October 12th

After one week in Adelaide I started my job helping as an artist in residence in Ingle Farm primary school, about 20km North of the city. I was a bit nervous but on arrival I found all the teachers rushing in utter confusion so I was immediately put at ease. Despite that the classes went very smoothly: kids turn up and sit down and maybe work or mess around but still, that is quite remarkable, a lesson in conventions: when people are told what to do enough they just do it, even if reluctantly! Scary... but handy! I helped out in Rita's classes because I cannot be with the kids on my own because being an untrained teacher I might rape them all, which suits me because I don't have to take any of the responsibility. When Rita was telling the kids off I would sometimes find it hard not to giggle at their cheeky comments and had to cover my face a couple of times, I apologized to her later and she said it was fine. As a teacher I think you get used to being firm and acting angry without actually feeling vicious.

We had four classes today. The school specializes in helping recent immigrant kids and some dyslexic children too so there is a large mixture of ethnic backgrounds and some very original young cats. All in all we numbered around 20 nationalities which was exciting. In the class of six year olds, Benjamin from Liberia (a country with an absolutely MAD history if you happen to be interested!) came in late and started chatting loudly in French in a very polite and kind way. He could not concentrate on the drawing at all but just joked and laughed and showed how he liked to dance. He was a natural show-off in the nicest sense. He made me laugh a lot and feel good. He told me about how he would dance with his granny and she would give him apples. I mentioned that they could draw animals too and he said he heard a story about a white guy who went to see a lion in the zoo and the lion eat him and then the lion put his paws together and prayed saying: "Thank you Lord for this lovely meal!" Then he added, "Actually I just made it up!"

A few minutes after Benjamin arrived a skinny little kid stepped in and walked straight to the empty desk saying loudly: "
Do not talk to me, I am very sad!" then sat down ignoring everyone. What an entry for the first day of term! This was Ahti, a poorly sighted young Sudanese kid whose family were temporary living in motels and even their car until they were given a home, I later learned. I got him some paper and pencil and explained what we were doing and he cheered up real quick and was joking with Benjamin about who loved Maria (the coy Colombian girl who had a little pink hand mirror) and who had eaten the donkey's underwear.

One other totally new boy called Ryan from Korea also made quite an impression. He did not speak English and the other Korean lad helped him. He is pretty autistic. One second he was busy drawing amazingly tiny detailed apartment blocks in the top corner of his A4 sheet and the next moment I looked up he had all the spare pencils stuffed on the inside of his spectacles like some medieval anti-cavalry defense on his nose! You don't even have time to notice because there is so much else going on and if it is not disruptive then you just accept it!

The older kids were also nice but some of the Afghanis were a bit lippy and bossy to the girls. The oldest kids were very hard to inspire. They did not want to draw anything. One boy whom trouble seemed to gravitate around was having a hard time drawing a pizza to express his Italian heritage and when I came up to see if they needed help he had just complete a round circle which I understood represented 'Pizza' and was busy defending anti-evolutionary theories against two Iraqi boys:
"Of course evolution happened you fool!"
'N0 it didn't, you can't prove it!'
"You probably believe in aliens too!"
'Yeah, everyone knows there is life on Mars!'
... and so on! Pretty ripping debate!

Another class of the same age-group was remarkably attentive and much nicer. They got stuck into the mask workshop and helped
each other. Two boys in the corner pretended to be old men on the park bench grumbling and amicably attacking each-other with scissors. Too bored to move or get involved at all but not upsetting anyone. A couple of the kids were interested in starting a chess club and one Chinese kid was quite persistent that I show him some breakdancing at the end of the class. Rita wanted me to play a song on the guitar but I could not think of any song that they would like so I went to the playground and did windmills, flares and nut-crackers on the AstroTurf which they all really enjoyed. One African kid was pretty good and he joined in which was wonderful and lots of others were interested so I think we will soon have a breakdance and chess club going and I have been learning some pop songs I think they will like so I will have something different for them next time: 'The Final Countdown', 'Bongo Bong', 'Kiss Me Baby One More Time' and 'Miss Dinami-te-hee'! With a bit more organization I reckon I could get some good results from the kids and expand their minds a bit perhaps! Ah, still full of youthful idealism! So it was a fun day but I am quite fair-dinkum now! My cup of tea never tasted so good!

Monday October 18
I had a great nap in the afternoon, I went to the end of the football field and lay under a tree and listened to the birds singing. I had to cover my face from the flies!

Sketches for the Kangaroo and Wombat mural

I told the children the Kangaroo and Wombat stories and they started sketching them with lots of great and inspiring results

Wombat asleep in his warm house by Noemi

Above: Jack's work

Above: ??? workAbove: Maria Hose from Columbia's picture. I loved her birds and
asked her to do the four corner birds in the finished mural.
Fatimah from Afghanisthan. A lovely little girl with little English but great
drawing talent. She did a fantastic job painting all the flowers in the final mural!

Above: My sketches for Wombat asleep in his cosy home and outside with Kangeroo

Abufazr from Afghanistans sketch of Roo and Wombat. He helped me paint the
flowers in the finished painting and was great help and and company!

Tuesday October 17
I had another nap on the bench in the football field during a class which was lovely.

Wednesday October 20

I started the Kangaroo and Wombat painting which was really exciting. Abdul who I had to shout at last week was not in school so his cheeky smaller sidekick, Hussein, was a bit at a loss. He decided I was the next best to joke around with in Abdul's absence so he offered himself as my bodyguard, keeping off the other kids while I was painting. He would yell at any of the younger kids who came into sight: "What are you looking at, there's nothing here, go away!" But when the elder kids came he silently disappeared as I was swamped by teenagers asking me what I was doing and if I was an artist. Things quietened down and I chatted with Hussein. I asked him where Adbul had gone and he told me Abdul had fallen off the monkey bars and broken his leg the day before. They are both Afghani but both look pretty Mongoloid. Abdul has such a small nose and flat round face that it is almost concave and if you drew a line between his forehead and chin his nose would never cross it, dear thing! Apparently he fell on top of Hussein who although being about half Abdul's weight was totally unharmed! I asked Hussain if he liked Abdul: "No he is not funny and he likes showing off but it is nice to be friendly to people, you know!" Together they had caused havoc in Mrs Martucci's class last week!

Thursday October 21

I am going to try to convince the kids I have psychic powers. I think I might and even if I don't if I can get them to think I do then they won't misbehave so much... well that's the plan. I did not even need to come into school but I came anyhow because I was excited about the painting. Hussein wanted to be my bodyguard all day but I had to convince him that he came to school to attend classes not to bully smaller kids who walked near me while I was painting. He was more than adequetly replaced by Mustaffa, that is my name for the ribbon bunting between chairs that the kids are not allowed to cross! Anyhow, I'll tell you how I got the psychic power idea. Rita had told me about one boy who walked around cursing and swearing. I think it must have been him who walked past me slowly in the middle of some lesson time muttering out loud:
"Where is the Lego, where is the fucking Lego. I got to find that piece of fucking, fucking Lego! Where the fuck is the fucking Lego!" and so on until he was out of earshot. I was quite amused and when he jogged back a couple of minutes later I chirpily enquired if he had found the Lego. He stopped short as if he had forgotten about it, said: "Arrh!" and looked like he was going to start his old fucking Lego mantra again, then with a flash, his face lit up like a man with a knife in his belly and his eyes bulged excitedly! He bent down and picked up a tiny piece of blue Lego at his foot! He muttered thanks and walked off looking at it in amazement and the last I heard was him saying "I can't fucking believe it!'

Monday October 25

I went to the staff room for a cup of coffee. A teacher was quizzing one of the class 8 girls (13 years old) about why she should tell people where she was going.
"Why is it not simply good enough to take your mobile phone with you?"
'Because you might run out of battery.'
"Any other reason?"
'Umm, you could get attacked by animals in the forest!'
"Yes, any others?"
I had to leave because I had snorted half my coffee through my nose.

Tuesday October 26
Today I started the second Kangaroo and Wombat painting with the kids. This one they get to help me. When I told them that they all went mad wanting to help but I selected the three best artists and it went very well. Unfortunately the next class with the smaller kids was less easy. I had to select more because a couple of kids started sulking so five kids came to help me including Ahti. I turned my back from Ahti to stop one girl who was drawing splodgy lumpy fish all over the desert floor when I suddenly realized Ahti was busy mixing vast amounts of paint. I made him chief of clean water which meant that he ran forward and backwards cleaning the water jars before the artists had even had time to use them. A bit later when all the kids had left I was working on my own fixing the damage mostly when Belle offered to help. We worked happily together, chatting. She is a big friendly white Ozzie girl who is pretty smart and therefore a bit of a loner in this not very academic school.
She told me her dad was Michael Jackson. I laughed but she said he was, his name was Michael Jackson! I still laughed!

Several little children come up and say pretty much the same thing. Something along these lines:
"What are you doing Mr Jimmy?" (except for the one Afghani kid who calls me Mrs Jimmy)
'I am painting a picture!'
"Oh, it is sooo beautiful! Bye bye!"

Wednesday October 27
I was painting all day but went to help Rita with a class that seemed to be rowdy. One table had two boys and two girls who were useless at their papier mache. One boy just fondled his balloon in a way that made the girls disgusted but I never even managed to spot. I got a little ferocious with the other boy and then walked off. I am not sure if it does any harm to have a reputation for a temper with these kids ... not until everyone finds out about my psychic skills. One of the girls was the sister of a young boy who was there on work experience. He had just left the school and was keen on sports and wanted to be a PE teacher. He was pretty friendly and nice. He was one of 7 kids and had a strong Aboriginal strain. He was telling his old teacher about friends hitting the houch and his relatives getting their throats slashed. Grueling stuff!

Back in the class one winging girl told Rita:
"Mrs Martucci, I cant do this!"
That is just the kind of comment Rita does not appreciate so I tried to help out:
'Sorry my dear, we have new rules, if you don't complete the papier mache mask we have to chop off your head!'
'Yeah, sorry, it's the new rules!'
The big boy sitting next to her suddenly said:
"Well, if those rules are from God I'ld be surprised!"

That was quite a surreal comment! I liked it!
Rita asked me if she looked frazzled and if she looked like she was earning her money! She did!

My picture of the psycho Wombat jabbing Kangaroo up the bumper with a spear and kangaroo creeping into wombats hut in the bright morning and covering him with his big pointy eared shadow before he crushes his skull with a rock is almost finished and looking soooo beautiful!

The first completed mural of Kangeroo and Wombat getting violent,
including a close up below of the upper part of the painting!

Monday 1st November
Today I played football with the kids at school. About 25 a side with the little kids flying around like those death star fighters in star wars when they are under attack. zipping around in a straight line and zooming straight into planets... just like the smaller kids into bigger kids! it was brilliant fun and I scored!!!!
the pitch was as wide as the field so sometimes the ball was in play about half a kilometer from the goals but no-one minded! play continued behind the goals and into the class room after the bell had gone!!! I was tired out and had a sleep on the classroom floor during lunch break.
The funniest part of the day was this little Indian kid. He is so polite and friendly but just wont shut up but he is impossible to upset. I selected him to help me paint the mural but I simply could not concentrate with him talking the whole time and he and Abdul looked so funny. The Indian kid whose name I forget but I call him Neel anyhow, had buttoned on his smock with the bottom button of one side going through the top hole on the other which was simply hysterical especially when he stood next to Abdul both of them looking at me in wonder why I was cracking up because Abdul had a hoodie under his smock and the hood by his neck made him look like a tiny hunchback! Anyhow, Neel, whose name was something else, had been so keen to do the mural and since he is fun I had let him join in but later decided I would have to tell him that if he did not be quiet for a second then I would have to send him back to the class with the other kids to do the normal lesson. I was expecting a least a little concilatory behaviour on his side, something like, "OK then Mr Jimmy, I will be quiet! I promise!" but instead he smiled his big grin and said "OK, I am going back to class, bye bye!". I was stumped!
I was showing one class my plans for the moon story and a child asked: "Are the people going to be naked?" I said 'Why not?' and suddenly one 8 year old boy jumped up and started chanting: 'Boobs boobs boobs boooooooooooooooobs' to which one little girl screamed: "Be quiet be quiet... it freaks me out when you talk about private parts!"
Well, that's conditioning for you!

Tuesday 2nd November
I finished the second Kangaroo and Wombat mural and started finishing off the first one which you can see below:

Above: Almost finished picture of Kangaroo and Wombat in the storm and in the summer

Wednesday 3nd November
Yesterday I started the moon murals. It was really fun working on them and by the end of school today they were both coming together. They are based a lot on the kids drawings and some of my own ideas. I am excited about how they are going!

Initial picture for 2nd work on why the moon waxes and wanes with BELOW, Jacks sketch of the worried tribe wondering what has happened to the moon with lots of exciting boobs!

Above and Below: Gradual progress on the first Moon mural. Above is Roy the schools volunteer handyman who is a really kind local who comes and chats once in a while.
Below are some of the kids in the younger classes of the school

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