First published: Spring 2012
August Walla was born in Klosterneuburg in 1936, Austria. While his mother Aloisia, a single 40-year-old woman, worked to support Walla, her own mother cared for him until her death when he was six years old. During the Nazi era Walla’s mother raised him as a girl, hoping to spare her son from being drafted into war. Later, Walla became aware of his male identity and, looking back on his childhood, he decided that the Russian occupants must have operated on him and turned him into a ‘Russian boy’. He therefore used the swastika as a symbol of being female and the hammer and sickle, representing communism or Russianness, as a symbol of being male.
Walla never met his father and did not know his identity, but for a long time he believed that his father was Hitler because he heard his voice on the radio and so he sometimes called himself ‘Adolfe’.
Within the middle-class society of Klosterneuburg, mother-and-son Walla were notorious outsiders. Although he was of normal intelligence, Walla was sent to a school for children with learning difficulties where he did not socialise well or like to learn. His education ended with primary school. Around this time, at the age of ten, Walla made his first drawings. For many years, Walla lived in a small apartment with his mother when he was not hospitalised: he first spent time in a psychiatric institution when he was 17 years old and was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Also at the age of 17, Walla started writing, and making objects and graffiti.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #75