In the Name of the Mother and the Father

Photographs by Luiza Kons

A giant bird

was struggling out of the egg; the egg was the world

and the world must first be rent asunder

 –Hermann Hesse


Hair covers the face. It draws other contours and makes it impossible to perceive who it is underneath the layers. Hands appear on both sides as if they were directing the action. Stretching the skin. It feels like instant plastic surgery. The only visible eyelid is shut. A fallen character. Enraptured.

“In the Name of the Mother and the Father,” I describe the connections of estrangement and affection between myself and my parents in an attempt to tether my own autistic female perspective to family ties within the cartography of two worlds that yearn to touch each other.

Ten years after receiving the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) I searched through my own family stories which took me to a rural imaginary in southern Brazil, creating a fictional reality that could sort out the mental confusion I live in and present a feminine approach to the spectrum.

I know there are so many others like me, and some of them haven’t even been diagnosed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which provides the standard measurement used in Brazil, reported in 2020 that women represent one in every four cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

New studies have shown that women on the spectrum often go unnoticed because the evaluation criteria are based on the male behavioral stereotype. We are like a silent scream: ready to look for rules to be followed in order to feel accepted. We’ve learned how to camouflage ourselves, as we are more prone to social skills, imitation, and language use.

Building a fictional reality was the way I found to break these stereotypes. So other autistic women wouldn’t feel like a farce for creating their own worlds and designing their own mental abstractions.

I’ve always enjoyed asking questions. Willing to learn more about people’s stories, I think biographical narratives are my main hyperfocus. My curiosity made me go off-limits and ask unusual or inappropriate questions. I have always wanted to know more and more. But it’s not like I knew it was wrong. By getting feedback from my surroundings, I just kept adding to my repertoire “what should not be said.”

In contrast, I have always had difficulty expressing what I was feeling. In childhood, my mother tried several times to get closer to me, to get access to my inner place, to the fixed point which I would look at for hours. I didn’t allow her to trespass on it. Truth be told, I didn’t know what was going on. As if I couldn’t approach a part of myself.

Regarding the process of photographing these scenes that obsessively popped into my head, placing my mother and my father as one of the characters: it was a way of shouting out everything that I couldn’t say in words. The woman and the man who run, in despair, out in that open field are made of multiple layers of images. It’s my father, as a boy, returning from a novena with his family and witnessing their wooden house in flames. And it’s also related to my thoughts, which are full of images and words, carrying another woman that inhabits me and with whom I didn’t get acquainted yet.

24 de janeiro de 2021, 14:30

I thought I wouldn’t be able to write you as a character. You dropped out from every word. The more I wrote, the less it became you. It’s a strange movement, this feeling of coming and going. Then I was able to understand: it was me. I have been unable to build myself as a character. It’s me; I can’t find myself. It’s me who doesn’t know things. And if I don’t know how to write about yourself, it’s because you are me. You know: I wanted things to fall into place. But we are not the ones who invent the order of things, aren’t we?

It hurts me to say this, but one day, I’ll have to erase some of these lines. It’s because they will not overlap one another. They will not create the required thread. That’s the process. Yet it hurts me. I get attached to things. Yes, yes, it’s necessary to let it leave. Go. Fly away. Like a red balloon in the sky. It goes higher and higher, wandering, pops into the air. You can only hear its noise.

It hurts me. Because in every paragraph, it was what brought me here. Like every teardrop which didn’t show up in the form of a rhyme. From when I didn’t know if “cabeça” (head) was written with s or ç. Like the time when I signed my name with sheets glued to each other, and the teacher said it was unreadable and that I needed to watch my behavior. Why can’t I let the plants decompose? Do I like the version which came this far? Do I get down to it: just a version of myself? No. It’s just that words, images, are a fraction of me. And also that other one. The one which will turn to nothing. Hidden away. Deep down, in a part, inaccessible to me. The secret of me. My unknown. These are not my words. But in case they are: it’s my edited projection. It’s what they want you to think in order for you not to think about that other part too.

I do not expose myself as I think I do. Here I get the chance to be the narrative I would always want to be. And if I try. If I dedicate clock ticks to it, with a broken spine, with eyes burning in front of a screen, I can make something good out of it. I can impose that projection. I can be a modern fable. And apply myself as a character.

Or if I ran. Time fragments detached from my feet as they moved. The sun hitting my face. The wind is rising up my blouse. It’s uncomfortable. It’s been uncomfortable since I was born. And they have whispered to me it won’t get better. It’s related to speed, and my arms and legs dance. It makes sense to me. I try to cling to what escapes me, but I wish to embrace it. The best hug is the one I haven’t felt yet. I walk because I believe in it. How would that be? How would it be if we hadn’t invented the idea of the future? Or the past? In case we could understand that time, this thing that we named as such, which is how we call it, in fact, didn’t exist. It’s not a matter of audacity. I just repeat what I’ve been told. I’m good at it, you know? Of making new word puzzles. Then I signed it myself. This thing. Everything. Anything is mine. I’m reading the abstract, which is the abstract of another book. In fact, I’ve just read a piece of it.

I should stand up. Move on. Isn’t that how it goes? What about the walls? Tumble them down. Fast. There’s something dripping. Nobody hears it. But it’s deafening. Fast. Before they take you away. They’re going to take off your clothes and turn you inside out. The skin will be underneath your veins. Red. All of them red. The tip of the hair will be melted to the scalp. It doesn’t matter how delirious your dreams are. It drips. And after it gets wet, it becomes slippery. You fall. And are soaked. Every time the liquid embraces you, it takes a part of you with it.

Translation from Portuguese to English by Wanderson Barbieri.

Luiza Kon’s “In the Name of the Mother and the Father” was awarded first place in the Foto-Feminas 2022 Portfolio Review. 

@luizakons on Instagram.

VII Insider is pleased to partner with Foto-Feminas to bring these stories to our community.

See the other winners, Daniela Paoliello’s “Digging the Dark” and Bea Zamora C’s “The Circle of My Flesh.”

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