As a 36-year-old who was born with Down’s Syndrome, it was always hard for me to talk about how I felt while growing up in Newport, Melbourne. But over time, I've learnt to use different forms of art – painting, photography, poetry and dancing – to express my feelings and explore my interests.
Having that outlet to express how you feel is better than bottling up your feelings or whatever’s inside you. Art gives me the freedom to actually process my emotions and what’s going on inside. In fact, expressing my feelings and talking about nostalgia, shyness and self-affirmation was really important to me during my recent spoken word performance, Having a Disability, supported by the Footscray Community Arts Centre – a Melbourne-based organisation which I’m doing an arts residency at so I can focus on my poetry.
My poetry is a way for me to express my feelings about my disability. I hadn’t talked about it before much, but as I grow more confident as an artist, I think it’s really important to talk about it in my art and to stand up for other people with disabilities. In some ways, it's a type of closure to actually accept who I am. If I speak up about it, maybe I’ll start seeing it from a more positive point of view.
When I am writing poems, I like to think about who I’m talking to. If a non-disabled person was listening, I would want them to walk away with the feeling that it’s OK to be yourself, no matter who you are, no matter what you have – you’re just being you. I would want them to think about how it feels for people to have a disability and to feel empathy, have a greater understanding and be a bit more supportive towards people with disabilities.
If a disabled person was listening to my poetry, I want them to know they’re not alone, because I know how it feels to have a disability and have something that you can’t control. We can rise above it and just focus on living our lives to the fullest and really reach our true potential. Yes, we are different, everyone is unique and we should be treated equally. We have dreams and goals that we want to achieve. Life is too short to not be ourselves.
My inspiration for my poetry comes when I’m living in the moment. When I feel something, I just write it down. Poetry can take a while to write. If I’m feeling uninspired, I do research or meditate to give me clarity on things.
I write about feelings and emotions, but I’m also interested in exploring new topics, like outer space, and the only way to get new inspiration is to do research. I find space really interesting. There are so many things you can write about, like planets and the stars. Research is really the only way to make new poetry otherwise I feel like I’ve been stuck in a bubble.
Photography is also another passion of mine as an artist. I used to take a lot of nature photos, but now I am starting to take photos of other things like bridges and different locations. I usually take photos out of a bus and train window as I explore the town. I’ve also been taking a lot of photos at night. I love how the moon shines and I want to capture that using photography.
Speaking up on disability through art helps me accept who I am. Some people might think having a disability is a negative or a label other people put on you, but really, it’s just about the way you live.
Having a disability is something that we cannot change - and why would we want to? Everyone’s unique in their own way and that’s what I want to explore through my art.