Being Me Rex

Rhys Davies was a successful I.T. engineer before a head injury changed life dramatically. He's not in I.T. now and he's not Rhys. He's Rhysasaurous Rex, an artist living where he can.

Rhys Davies had an ordinary life.  Rhysasaurous Rex has an extraordinary one. Rhys was a successful I.T engineer who would regularly put in more than 70 hours a week. He had a life, a mortgage, a place to call home.

But Rhys left that all behind following a traumatic brain injury that nearly took his life. Ask him about it, and he will tell you that it did take his life, his old one anyway.

“I don’t remember about 20 years of his life.”

“You don’t have to spend too much time with me to know that my life is different” he says. 

He no longer has the ability to work and his brain injury causes fatigue each day.

 “I wouldn’t make a `very good crisis engineer sleeping through a crisis!” 

At the time of his brain injury, (medically diagnosed as Traumatic Brain Injury or T.B.I) Rhys was a top-level competitive mountain biker, climbing among the top 50 in the country within the sport. He helped design the purpose-built track that he was riding on when a large tree fell on him from above, knocking him unconscious causing significant and permanent damage to his brain.

“I don’t remember about 20 years of his life.” Rex explains.

Rex experiences long and short-term memory loss. He describes his new life as more of a “re-incarnation”. His new perspective on life was the start of an incredible revolution of ideas and thinking for him. 

Rhys’s old life came with responsibilities. A job that paid for the things that held him in touch with a “normal” existence. Rex explains why those responsibilities are unattainable for him now.

“Without Rhys there would be no Rhysasasourus Rex. I suppose Rhysasasourus Rex was created as ultimate escapism.”

Art was an escape from the stresses of working long 18-hour days and since becoming Rhysasasourus Rex, he now sees it as his passion and devotes much of his time creating his impressive works. However, he has found it difficult to gain foothold in the Auckland art scene.

“How is it possible in Auckland, that I could be one of the most famous artists in the world and yet I don’t have a space in an Auckland Art gallery!” explains Rex.

Undeterred, Rex continues to share his art with anybody that he can. He never charges people for his work, preferring to accept that his work doesn’t hold a monetary value that could exclude people like himself who don’t have the money to pay for it. 

“People often ask me why I don’t charge for my art” he says.

“I suppose it’s a reflection of the humanity that we live in. Art isn’t necessarily about making money. Its not about earning status. It’s not about anything other than being a better human and leaving a better humanity for everyone”

Rhysasasourus Rex’s passion for humanity has connected him closely to Auckland city’s homeless community. Rex describes his younger and more vulnerable street friends as his foster children and Rhys will usually help them any way he can. At times he has given people his last twenty dollars so that they could eat. 

“I don’t like Rhysasaourus Rex. I like Rhys.”

His longtime friend and support person Vanh Anthai reflects on the transition from Rhys to Rex. 

“All the charisma, and all of the chaos that you can put into a small package. He’s always noble with his intent, and he was like that before the incident.”

Prior to Rex’s re-incarnation Anthai describes both of their lifestyles as closely entwined.

“We were very active. We worked really hard and we partied really hard.”

Anthai feels that his friends’ new personality is more challenging to connect with than his former.

“I don’t like Rhysasaourus Rex. I like Rhys.” He says.

“Rhys, I’ve known for quite some time. Rhysasasourus Rex is the real extreme of ‘the happy go lucky, throw their cards down, see where they lie and deal with the consequences later’.”

Anthai thinks it’s important to understand the need for skepticism with Rhysasaourus Rex in order to help Rex navigate through each of his endeavors and avoid disappointment along the way. 

“I love his noble intent. Rhys will do anything for an underdog and do everything in his power to help someone who is powerless.”

Anthai wants Rex to have some normality in his life. He feels that Rex has dug himself into a hole and can’t get out. One of the many issues surrounding Rex and many others like him are the obstacles and barriers in front of him getting help. Rex doesn’t have a mailing address or a bank account for him to receive welfare. 

“You can’t afford simple medicines that most normal people will just go to their bathroom cupboard and pull out.”

His health has deteriorated somewhat from the effects of poverty, which include the need for around $11,000 of dental work.

“You can’t afford simple medicines that most normal people will just go to their bathroom cupboard and pull out.”

However, things are looking better for Rhysasaourus Rex after securing accommodation in Auckland CBD. He has a safe place to sleep, to paint and to keep himself healthy. 

“My worry is that he will fall off the radar.” Anthai explains while reflecting on the more sensitive issues surrounding his friend’s situation. Not hearing from Rex worries Anthai.

“I think he does that because he thinks he’s going to be a burden. Which can be really sad because you want to be there as a friend for him.” 

Anthai continues to believe that he can connect with Rex but that some changes would be required and that the challenge for both of them is figuring out how that’s going to work.

She believes that Rex has found happiness to some degree, but it remains inconsistent.

As Rex reflects on his new-normal way of life, he speaks about the difference between himself and those who he sees living his old way of life.

“I suppose if I want to do something, I do it. People say that’s because I’m a ‘rebel artist’ with some ‘inner broken brain problem’.  But I look at it like freedom, I free myself from restrictions.”. 

Rex continues to showcase his spirit to overcome obstacles and create a better mindset for himself and for those more vulnerable who look up to him.

Rhysasaurus Rex. Showcasing love and art on the world stage - and on the street.

Words by Mark Shaw