Wendy DaviesAs a child who contracted polio at two years of age, and was diagnosed at nine with scoliosis, I had little time for recreation.

Study and work took precedence until full time teaching was no longer an option at fifty-one.

Suddenly, I was able to explore, play and create, things which were certainly not part of my childhood.

A clay and sculpture workshop ten years ago produced a surprise.

The following was written at the time:

What was revealed was a 10/11/12 year old me, stretched on a plaster bed in the hospital. While the bed may not be exactly how it was, it nevertheless has the appearance of a torture rack. My distorted body is covered in plaster from chin to hips. My developing breasts are prominent while my legs and arms look squashed. In screaming silently, the body reveals the feelings which were not permitted to be expressed.

To fully emphasise how repressed I was by the male authority figures in the plaster room, I’ve placed four thick straps across my body. One covers my mouth. It serves dual purposes – to stop my loosened teeth from falling out and to ensure my submission. “Be a good girl. Don’t cry. It’ll be all over soon.” (As I’m writing this, I feel like yelling, “Liars!”) Yet I know that they were decent people who were only doing their jobs.

In the finishing touches to the work, little problems arose with the estapol. A few hairs were left from the brush. I wouldn’t remove them for they became the burrs left behind in the poorly scoured woollen singlet which went under each plaster. Then some estapol took away some paint on my clay thigh. That became the skin on my hip which was cut by the plaster cutter …. with its high pitched whining. I flinch at the thought still !

Just by creating, rather than thinking or talking about these traumatic experiences, I suddenly realised where my inability to speak up to authority figures had its genesis.

By joining the “We’re Still Here” campaign at Parliament House in Canberra in October 2012 and speaking to my local MP, I know that repression is no longer an issue.

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Repression #1     Repression #2     Repression #3

Return to: Wendy Davies’s “Touched by Polio” artist page