The Florida Art Education Association (FAEA) has honored Saint Andrew’s Middle School student Malika Mckeith-Wellington '25 as one of the only Middle School students in Palm Beach County to earn the Award of Excellence from the annual 2020 K-12 Student Art Assessment and Virtual Exhibition. This is the second year in a row that Malika has been awarded.
The art project Malika embarked centers on visual culture and how artists are inspired by the culture and the environment to create a personal visual language. “Each student was encouraged to delve into their own cultural traditions for inspiring their paper mache sculptures, and I was thrilled to see that Malika worked with a hummingbird theme,” said Middle School Art teacher, Megan Dejo.
Malika conducted research on the Jamaica information service website prior to beginning her art project. She learned that the doctor bird is the Jamaican national bird and among 320 species of hummingbirds. The doctor bird only lives in Jamaica. This bird has been used for years in Jamaican folklore and song, and is thought to have earned its name because of its black crest and tail, which resembles the top hat and long tail coats doctors used to wear in the old days.
“The Arawak community spread the belief that this bird had magical powers. They called it the “god bird” believing it was the reincarnation of dead souls.”
“I chose the myth of the doctor bird as my Grandad was born and raised in Jamaica, and my parents also got married there. Therefore, while pursuing this project, I felt extremely close to my ancestors,” she added.
Malika also chose to incorporate the phoenix bird into her creation, as in the Ancient Greek folklore, a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is born again. The phoenix is associated with the sun and Jamaican is a very sunny island. The phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessors.
“I painted the tail of this bird with colors that represented fire from the phoenix - red, orange, and yellow.”
Malika used the materials of newspaper, tin foil, metal wire, and paper mache to create the structure. She started by covering the metal in newspaper and tin foil to get the shape of the bird and then covered it in paper mache. This was followed by painting the bird and then adding the detail on the exterior by using fine tip pens, which created tiny dots for the detail.
“Malika was incredibly dedicated to the process that led to this award and came to work in the art studio beyond the allotted hours. I am proud of her achievement and efforts. Her tenacity and passion for artmaking is inspiring,” said Mrs. Dejo.
Malika’s award-winning efforts have not ceased during these uncommon times apart from art rooms and studios on campus. “I have kept up with my artmaking during this time and even made a small video on making masks with sewing techniques,” she said.