Best Day Ever Mulga and the mural at Bondi Beach Public School

Born Joel Moore, the artist known as Mulga received his nom-de-plume in Year 5 after reciting the Banjo Patterson poem ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’. “They still call me that,” says Mulga. “I think it’s kinda cool that my art name is named after a character from a poem and I write poems [to accompany my drawings].”

The other thing that’s kinda cool is that Mulga started his art career on the very grounds of the Bondi Beach Public School where he’s painting a mural on the side of one of the classrooms.  

“In 2012 I had my first art show, and I made some t-shirts and stuff like that, I figured making some t-shirts and putting cool art on them was a good way to make some income from art and I started coming to this very school actually on a Sunday, so this is where I started selling my merch and t-shirts, at Bondi Markets, so it’s kinda cool that I’m back here painting.”

He’s been working with Year 1 students to create a mural for the side of their demountable classroom. During term two they brainstormed ideas for characters. They talked about the environment, the ocean, things they love to do at Bondi Beach, and then Mulga designed the mural which the Year 6 class has been helping him paint.

In the mural there are the usual things you’d find down near the beach; dolphins, surf and sand, as well as some native animals like a koala holding a surfboard and an emu with a lifeguard buoy. A little more unexpectedly there are also chickens donning sunglasses, one carrying a skateboard and one eating an ice-cream. The school has their very own chickens named Sugar, Autumn, Midnight and Pickle, so the students were very keen for the mural to include them.

Artist Mulga and his beard. Photography by Raúl Ortiz de Lejarazu Machin/The Chemistry of Light.

It’s been a collaborative effort says the Year 1 teacher Jenny Beachum who contacted Mulga when they were moved out of the library into their demountable classroom. “Art is critical in education,” says Beachum. “It provides a way for kids to engage with the content of anything in a deeper way.” 

Beachum believes sitting down at school all day can be dangerous for little children’s minds but with the mural, “they are always excited to come to school and see it.” She believes art helps make the world a fun, engaging and bright place and that this mural celebrates creativity, collaboration and the local neighbourhood.

There’s a buzz of excitement as the children swarm around Mulga choosing their favourite animal, asking Mulga questions and wanting to be up close to the artist.

“One kid keeps asking me, ‘How does your beard grow’?” says Mulga. “He said this morning, ‘I hope your beard had a good night’s sleep.’”

Beards are a signature feature of Mulga’s work. “My style is colourful, lots of black lines, detailed lines. Most of my characters have sunglasses, summer themes, I used to draw a lot of gorillas, bearded characters.”

You can see Mulga’s work around the backstreets of Newtown and Marrickville as well as at Bondi Beach, at the skate park, on a barber shop wall and along the promenade. “At the North end of the beach, the north pools there, the big yellow letters that say ‘Bondi’ and pink dolphins, I did that one.”

“I always loved drawing as a child,” Mulga says. “I was always drawing in my text books in the margins, but I didn’t think I could do that as a job, I didn’t think you could make money from creative stuff.” So he studied finance. Ten years later he decided he didn’t want to do that for the rest of his life and he became an artist instead.

Mulga channels his inner child when he paints, he says. “I guess I haven’t really grown up – I don’t like being serious, just having fun, keeping young.”

He likes painting murals that people enjoy. “The kids really get into it. It’s where kids spend most of their time, and bringing art to them, I think it was yesterday one of the kids said it was the best day ever.”

The characters in his artworks usually have a poem that represents them. Mulga hasn’t finished the artwork when we speak so the poem is yet to be painted in. Later, one of the Year 6 students, Esme, will start ad-libbing one for him and it will become the official poem for the mural…

Beware, this world is not what you think it is,

The colourfulness and the spark has more than a fizz

The place is so crazy,

And the chickens are lazy,

Step in,

Then don’t step out,

The wild place is like a rollercoaster,
Going round and about,

The beach is not quiet,

The town is a riot,

The kids all fly swiftly to school,

You have seen nothing,

The teachers are laughing,

Now craziness will rule.

by Esme (Year 6 Bondi Beach Public School)


Admiring Mulga’s mural. Photography by Raúl Ortiz de Lejarazu Machin/The Chemistry of Light.

Additional credits: film and podcast recorded by Regina Botros. 


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