Thirteen years have
passed since Window was published. It is a long lag time between
companion titles. When did the notion of Belonging form and how did the
ideas evolve? About four years ago, a friend was talking about a street she
particularly loves in inner Sydney. This street of terrace houses has been
closed to traffic. Its windows, walls and pavements are filled to overflowing
with plants, growing from window boxes, from breaks in the pavement, from pot
plants, creeping up and covering walls of the houses. A couple of seats have
been placed among the plants. It’s a very narrow street but full of character …
a place where neighbours sit and chat and children can safely play.
Throughout the world,
there is a drift to uniformity, everywhere and everything looking and
Finally, throughout the creation of Belonging I was very conscious I wanted to include ideas that are within anyone’s grasp. Anyone can collect seeds or cuttings and plant and propagate them, and if a local council is approached, they are often willing to supply the plants for street planting and are often open to restricting street vehicle access. The main idea I’m hoping to communicate is the wonderful potential for positive change simply through individual and community effort.
Belonging shares the same format and
narrative structure as Window so the two books are indeed companion
titles. Was that your intention?
Window depicted the ugliness of urban
sprawl and still remains representative of much residential development
occurring on the fringes of our larger cities. To what extent does
Belonging reflect urban renewal in Australia today?
Belonging celebrates community however
throughout the book are allusions to individuality, such as billboards
urging Be Unique and Realise Your Dream. Could it not also
be said that the people in the growing community of Window were
seeking to ‘realise their dream’ of a home. How and why are these
better… they are self empowered and by the end of the book a sense of caring, of pride, a sense of place and sense of community has developed that doesn’t happen in ‘Window’.
Belonging, with its myriad detail,
repays many readings. There are some very potent little images that
develop significance as the book goes on, such as the neighbour passing a
pot plant over the fence to the little girl as a cement truck drives by to
a job. It must surely be a mammoth and time-consuming task to imagine and
marshall all these little images to create the sum effect of the book?
This is part of an extended review of ‘Belonging’ in Magpies Magazine, Volume 9 no 3 July, 2004
Copyright © Jeannie Baker