Sketches from Prison

Teo Soh Lung

Lizard scratching its ear. It is kind of funny to see this lizard using its hind leg to scratch its ear! It was the first time in my life seeing this and I was very amused!

I was trying to make a folded book for my friend’s daughter. This lizard which I called Liz was full of tricks. It was always entertaining me – scratching its head, turning its head backwards to look at me, sticking its tail out of the hole where the fluorescent tube was affixed, catching flying insects, etc.
I was trying to capture the movements of the lizard. I had a dream of lizards swimming in the sewerage pipes and I was drawing my dream.
Ants – I captured ants in my plastic box which once contained delicious chocolates. I could see the ants from all angles and upside down too. I drew them in great detail.
One day a spider weaved an intricate web on the branches of a flower stalk. I was quite fascinated at the skill and care with which the spider weaved its web. The completed web was very pretty.
A drawing of my cell door and the shadow it cast at a particular time of the day. Notice the small shutter which the guard would lift up and peep into the cell, my Shangri-La suite.
Insects that visited my cell. I was trying to draw a black beetle. One flew into my cell and the lizard tried very hard to catch it. I watched the entire incident – the lizard chuckling and jumping about, wagging its tail and well, generally excited about its meal. The beetle on the other hand was lost and was flying around, bumping about without any direction and hurting itself unnecessarily. It finally fell to the ground, with its legs up in the air. I wrote a poem about it.
The small lizard was really cute. It followed me from the top of the wall. When I walked to the left, it moved left and when I walked to the right, it also moved right. I was reciting poems to it and he was really quite amazing. As for the pregnant toad, it was found on the floor at the visitor’s room. It didn’t move throughout my family visit time. I drew it when I went back to the cell.
One night my little black toad came out of its plastic bag and deposited itself in the box of water where I placed my bottle of honey. The toad was very entertaining. If you looked at its face it was actually quite ugly. Its mouth was like an upside down ‘c’ and its eyes looked quite evil. But when you had no friends in the cell, you didn’t mind entertaining yourself by singing songs to it.

Teo Soh Lung is author of Beyond the Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner (2010). She was arrested on 21 May 1987 on the allegation of being part of a ‘Marxist Conspiracy’ and detained without trial under the Internal Security Act.