Belonging Speech ‘A sense of belonging and not belonging can be understood through exploration of the connections a composer has between themselves, people and places’. The idea of belonging can be seen through an individual’s need to gain a sense of identity, within themselves and through their relations with others. Critical to the notion of belonging it is important for an individual to gain a sense of acceptance and understanding between not only themselves but also place and others. The theme of belonging and not belonging can be explored through the connections a composer has between themselves, people and places.
Belonging is the topic area for many of Peter Skrzynecki’s poems such as; ‘Migrant Hostel’ and ‘St. Patrick’s College’ along with ‘State School No. 1812’ by R. Cobb’ and ‘The Cell’ by Jake Wilson. Good Morning/Afternoon teachers and students. When a person’s cultural identity is marginalized they feel dislocated and displaced. Skrzynecki’s poem ‘Migrant Hostel’ discusses the theme of dislocation within institutional belonging. ‘Migrant Hostel’ portrays an image to the audience of an individual who doesn’t belong in this environment and also has a loss of identity.
This migration to a foreign country creates a loss of identity in this individual as they don’t know where they belong and also the fact that they are being held at a hostel gives them a sense of non acceptance in this new country. Being paced in a hostel away from society represents the theme of institutional belonging as the individual has nowhere to go which clearly points to the individual not belonging. Skrzynecki uses techniques such as similes to give the viewer a deeper understanding on what his is trying to convey in this poem.
The simile ‘ like a homing pigeon circling to get its bearings’ creates imagery of an individual not knowing where to go and what to do. This simile provides the reader with a profound description and idea of the environment the individual was in. Another valid quote from the poem which helps depict the sense of not belonging to the hostel is ‘no one kept count of all the comings and goings’. This reveals how there was no such structure in this environment as the people who came in and out of the hostel stayed a very short time before being placed into society.
This also depicts not belonging as they never felt comfortable in the environment in which they were kept and didn’t stay long enough to feel a sense of home or connectedness to the hostel. The poem ‘St. Patrick’s College’ discusses a person’s cultural identity through a religious institutional belonging. This poem represents Skrzynecki’s journey through high school. Skrzynecki illustrates his way of the college trying to make him feel a sense of belonging whilst at the college, despite the fact that he never felt as though he belonged in the college’s environment.
Skrzynecki acknowledges that the college gives symbols of feeling welcome into this community by the quote ‘our lady watched with outstretched arms, her face overshadowed by clouds. ’ This quote suggests a gesture of support, protection and inclusivity within the school. The quote also brings an ominous tone which indicates the persona’s mood. This was one of the ways which the school offered the students a sense of belonging and welcoming in the college.
However, the simile ‘like a foreign tourist, uncertain of my destination every time I got off’ captures a sense of alienation and displacement as for the eight years of which he went there, it never occurred to him that he ever belonged to the colleges environment. Other examples which could have provided Skrzynecki with not belonging is that the poem never mentions the support of peers in his life which gives the reader a hint of being uncomfortable and unable to share his thoughts with anyone which also represents Skrzynecki’s not belonging to this institution or college. The cartoon ‘State School No. 812’ by R. Cobb is a visual text which also provides the viewer with a sense of alienation, dislocation and marginalisation within an institutional environment. Cobb uses satire to condemn the alienating impact school has on many students. Every visual and verbal cue combines to represent ‘State School No. 1812’ as a negative place. The regularity of geometric shapes; vertically and horizontal lines as well as the height of the walls make the students look insignificant and powerless. Their slumped heads and shoulders liken their appearance to that of prisoners reluctantly returning through the gates.
The facial expression on the student shows depression and complete reluctance to re-enter which shows the viewer that they are uncomfortable and feel that they don’t have a sense of belonging in this environment. The cartoonist challenges the viewer to disregard stereotypical perceptions of schools as positive places of learning and see them instead as places of institutional force and confinement. Cobb has challenged social expectations to reinforce his satiric message about oppressive educational practice.
His depiction is totally negative, implying that schools in general are restrictive and alienating environments for the students who are forced to attend them. ‘The Cell’ by Jake Wilson is another text which is related to the theme institutional belonging. Within institutions a person’s identity becomes insignificant due to dehumanization. This poem portrays an individual’s life in a prison and becoming institutionalised meaning that his spent most of his time in gaol. The quote “I wish that I were home” gives a deeper meaning about the poets persona and feeling about being in prison.
It provides the reader a sense that the individual does not belong in this environment and feels the need to be home. The tone of the prisoner is a very sorrowful and gloomy mood which also shows that he is sorry about his actions and continues to demonstrate the sense of alienation within him. The technique of the poet using the cell as if it’s talking to the prisoner and telling the prisoner how bad life is going to be inside this environment also illustrates the devastating time which the individual is going to feel and also the sense of isolation and not belonging in an environment for a long period of time.
The chosen texts explore the sense of belonging and alienation within institutions through four different composers, however each one expresses that when a person’s cultural identity is marginalized they feel dislocated and displaced, whether it be within in an institution or in a community, connections, and through exploring the techniques of the composer’s it is obvious that the theme of institutional belonging has assisted in portraying and illustrating how the composer can convey meaning of how an individual requires a sense of belonging within themselves, a place and with others.