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The Body Remembers

Ravinder Ruprai

Artist Statement

Long term effects of trauma, stress, depression, and PTSD are known to change the structures of our cells. Cells are the building blocks that make up all living things. Throughout the body, this causes a chain reaction of sorts. It can alter how our body makes proteins, one of the things your body needs to perform many different functions. This means it can change processes like how our body fights off viruses or turns food into energy. All of these changes can be passed from one generation to another. I have witnessed the effects of trauma, stress, depression and PTSD in my own family of origin as well as the family that I am raising. 

I am fascinated by the body. It is truly remarkable. The Body Remembers is a personal journey into motherhood, memory, and remembrance. This piece uses microscopic ‘slides’ as canvas. Three of them explore my curiosity with red blood cells. They carry vital oxygen to every part of the body - the very essence that awakens the soul. I was severely iron deficient/anemic with all three of my pregnancies in the early months, so I had to be especially careful with my diet during these significant months. 

One slide looks at the placenta. The placenta in my piece is made out of textiles and other materials that tend to be used mainly by women. This slide references the past, present, and future of humankind. The past enters into play with our physiology (how our bodies work), our biology, and our mental state. It can also include trauma if there have been past miscarriages and abuses. The placenta is a marvel unto itself. It is the only organ that grows when it is needed. It then disappears when its job is done. It represents the present moment—the melding of maternal and fetal cells in the here and now. It also brings forth the next generation – the future. There is also some evidence to suggest that the cellular life of an egg actually begins in the womb of our grandmothers. 

The last slide is a text piece. It outlines some of the events of my first child’s birth. It was a beautiful pregnancy that ended in an awful delivery. It took approximately 140 hours from my water breaking to my baby being born—an unimaginable amount of time! I was faced with systemic racism and power-hungry medical staff. It is astonishing that my baby and I managed to survive this. Some of the text is taken from the hospital’s medical intake forms, from which we can see that eventually my baby was born by emergency C-section. Further, improper manual removal of the placenta resulted in a consequent dilation and curettage (a surgery used to remove placental tissue from inside the uterus) and agalactorrhea (failure to produce sufficient breast milk). 

For years after this tragic delivery, I believed that I would not be able to have another child. With the support of my Obstetrician/Gynecologist, I was able to have two more beautiful children, but I was never able to breastfeed. And, though the mind often wants to forget, the body remembers. 

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