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The art of surviving

Untitled. 64cm x 50cm. Charcoal and soft pastels on paper.

If I am to have any chance of feeling understood in my loneliness,
if I want anyone to be able to grasp
what it meant for me and still means to me

that my early childhood trauma has
made it impossible for me to connect
with the world

then I have no choice
but to make the impact of that trauma
visible and tangible
to the world

How viable is the infant reared on lovelessness?


In my experience, being traumatised by your own parents or those who were supposed to look after you is so destructive because it takes away any possibility of secure attachment.

Title: suckling on a dead mother. 108cm x 73cm. Coloured ink and acrylics on paper.

I don’t know of anything more painful than
constantly surrendering to a
total lack of love and care in
response to my complete
helplessness as a baby, as
a small child.

So painful it makes me sick.


Years later, in coming to terms with the emptiness inside me (through images and words), I realised that the concept of ‘attachment’ was so fundamentally important to me because it was completely absent from my life when I was growing up.

My deepest sorrow

Title: abuse. 13cm x 8cm. Coloured ink and
acrylics on cardboard.

The monotony of rejection was broken only by my fathers sexual abuse.

The fact that my father was responsive,
that he allowed me to participate in the
and guided me in how to help
him, gave me the feeling that I had a
right to exist.

That is the foundation I was built on.


From my diary:

The mornings after it happened, I could barely stand. But I had no choice. I had to stand up and pretend to be ok. You tried to let me believe that I mattered by making me participate in your game, but today that realisation crushes me.

I ask you, father, how could you have done this?

I’ve come to realise that by acknowledging my trauma, I can and want to choose a different path for my life.

Every day that goes by without me being recognised in the existential injustice I suffered, is a day when I’m forced to keep up my double life.

Making images: building bridges inside myself = healing

In trying to free myself from living a ‘double life’, I had to become aware of what I was feeling and how this translated into all kinds of reactions.

To me, the feelings of powerlessness, depression and obsession and the suicidal feelings I experienced at a later age, were and are, perfectly normal reactions to the unrelentless injury I suffered as a small child.

Expression was and is my weapon: it forces me, again and again, to find a channel through which I can release everything I feel, bringing me closer to recovery.

In creating these images, I bring together the experience of loss (injury, powerlessness) with the experience of winning (I can do something).

And so I have built, and continue to build bridges inside myself. This is how I was able, and will continue, to let this otherwise incomprehensible mass of fear and sorrow come to the surface.

Untitled. 42cm x 30cm. Coloured ink on paper.

Every pen stroke on an empty sheet of paper is heavy with obstinacy and screams:

I exist!

Sharing images: building bridges between me and others = further healing

Untitled. 35cm x 27cm. Coloured ink and oil pastels on paper.

With my images, I have created life within
death. A small seed that will grow into a
rich, full life the moment I can share it with
the world.


Other people are mirrors. Mirrors that confirm my existence. I too act as a mirror, letting others recognise their own emotions in my work. This allows for a kind of communication between equals.

I believe that my images can bring people together, and by doing so, let me feel that I give something to society, to the world. I need this to be able to progress with my healing.

Healing in the sense that my feelings of powerlessness diminish, letting me  focus even more intensely on the creative process when working on a piece.


Untitled. 43cm x 27cm. Acrylic on plastic.

From my diary:

So now what?
On my retina, streams flow into rivers
And beyond
To oceans from one to the other
From me to others
In my belly a knot unravels
And wraps arms and legs together
This contour
The sloshing has stopped
Between me and myself, time and tide. The distance.
Like a mousetrap. Split second. Life or death.
Open or shut.
Beyond ancient walls. Chipped away.
Searching for paths.
Like leaves covering a trap
Will it carry my weight?
Deep, deep hole, abyss.
An abyss within me.

My dearest abyss.
And at the bottom:
The ground
Black, black chasm
At the bottom:
The ground
And in between: oceans and streams to rivers
And me, learning to swim a little
Someone on the shore

Common ground
Tears ebbing
I can see it now

Now I have shared with you – as an observer of my story (in images and words) – my wish to connect with others who:

  1. also seek support and acknowledgement;
  2. can help me on this path I have travelled and will continue to travel, to acknowledge my present and my past, beyond all taboos and reaching out for dialogue;
  3. are interested in my creative work in itself.