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How Michael Smith Makes Charity Beautiful

This video is available for licensing as stock footage. Visit or email [email protected]

Michael Smith works as a print designer for the nonprofit charity: water. To him, great design isn’t just about looking good, but communicating clearly and effectively to an audience. In the nonprofit world, communicating that message well is everything.

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Cast: Cory J Popp

Tags: Philly Makers, Philadelphia, Philly, Graphic Design, Charity, Nonprofit, Design, Print and charity: water

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9 crossword puzzle hacks you should know, according to New York Times puzzle creators

crossword puzzleHarry Engels/Getty Images

“ERA” is the most common entry in crosswords, as well as “ARE,” “AREA,” and “ORE.”
If a clue is in plural, the word will probably end in “S.”
“Cheating” by checking a letter or word is encouraged if you’re stuck.

Crossword puzzles can be intimidating if you don’t do them regularly. With all of those blank squares, it might even feel like you’re sitting down to take the SAT or a spelling test.

But Deb Amlen, columnist and editor of Wordplay at The New York Times who wrote the official guide to solving The New York Times crossword puzzle, and Matt Gaffney, a professional crossword puzzle constructor who has written over 4,000 puzzles for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and others, don’t want you miss out on the fun.See the rest of the story at Business Insider

NOW WATCH: This furniture fits together like a puzzle

See Also:

16 celebrities who have their own fashion linesBreakfast meals you should be eating instead of cereal, according to a nutritionist17 things you’re paying for that you can actually get for free

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Development of the electric brain. Interview with my favourite neuroscientist Dr Matt Grubb

Matt Grubb Kings London axon initial segment

Meet Dr Matt Grubb. He’s one of my all-time favourite neuroscientists. Matt and I met in Oxford. We did our PhDs in the same lab, went to the same college, played in the same netball team, drank in the same pubs, and even starred in the same Christmas panto …

Matt was always going to shine as a neuroscientist, and part of his brilliance was what pushed me into science writing (mind you, I still aspire to write as well as he does). I’m incredibly proud of how well he has done, and will lay claim to giving him his first lessons in electrophysiology.

Matt heads up the Grubb Lab in Kings College London where he tries to figure out two things:

1. How the electrical activity that occurs in the developing brain has its dramatic effects on a neuron’s identity, its position, its shape, and its connections with other cells.

2.  How adult-born neurons can squeeze their way into a network of interconnected neurons that are already established, without messing that network up.

In his own words his research aims to “help to inform treatments trying to replace human cells lost through injury or disease.  If we’re trying to replace old cells with new cells, why not take a few hints from the way the brain does it all on its own?”
Tell me about your current position and how long have you been in there?

I was lucky enough to get a 5-year Career Development Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust to set up my own lab here at King’s College London.  That started in May 2010 so I’ve got about a year and a half of it left…

I want to understand how and why you ended up here working as a neuroscientist … tell me about your ‘journey’, what led you to this job?

I just kept doing the things I liked doing!

That’s the nice thing about science – your education actually gives you a pretty good idea of what it’s like and whether you enjoy it.

So I loved biology at school, especially the brain bits, then I essentially did a neuroscience degree, where I loved the cellular bits, and I’ve kept on with those cellular neuroscience bits ever since.

What motivates you? What are you most excited or passionate about (maybe this isn’t neuroscience!)? 

Love a clean result. That’s not necessarily a ‘good’ result, or the one you’re expecting, but you plan your experiments hoping that they’ll enlighten you a little bit instead of just making things more complicated. If you can go home feeling like you understand the brain a little bit better, that’s a good month (yes, things move that slowly in neuroscience!)

Now, on to the science! Give me a brief overview of your research/lab (and remember most readers are not scientists!)

We try to figure out how brain cells change as they develop.

Neurons have to adapt to all kinds of perturbations as they mature, and we try to figure out how and why these adaptations occur.

Give me a brief overview of what a typical day might involve? What does a neuroscientist *do*?

One of the best things about this job is the variety.  I’m a young group leader, so I still get to do ‘proper’ experiments in the lab – that’s pretty much the textbook stereotyped picture of a scientist, lots of microscopes, liquids in tubes and Bunsen burners.

But I also spend a lot of time supervising people in my group – training them on practical techniques, talking through their data and planning future experiments.

I might have a bit of undergraduate lecturing/tutorialling/marking to do.  Then there’s all the usual boring bureaucratic rubbish you have to do in any managerial job.

And finally if there’s a deadline looming or we’ve managed to put together an exciting (or at least reasonably coherent) story, I’ll spend time writing grant proposals for more funding, or manuscripts so we can publish our work.

Who funds your research?

Most of our funding comes from the Wellcome Trust, a UK biomedical science charity which is completely independent of government money.  This makes it much easier to convince my Dad we’re not wasting his taxpayer’s cash…

Take this opportunity to dispel a myth. As a neuroscientist, what beliefs or misconceptions about the brain/neuroscience really bug you?

The ‘you only use 10% of your brain’ one is crazy – no-one knows where it originated, and there’s abundant evidence to show that it’s completely untrue.

But I get far more annoyed with people using pseudo-neuroscientific explanations for things – ‘you’re happy because of increased serotonin levels’ or ‘I think mainly with my right brain’.  These don’t really help anyone understand anything.

Take this opportunity share any message you’d like about your research/neuroscience/brain health/science.

Basic research matters!

There’s a huge shift in the priorities of government funding agencies in the UK at the moment, where they’ve decided that taxpayers need to see some ‘results’ for the money put into research.  This means funding is moving away from basic science (e.g. ‘how does the brain develop?’) towards so-called ‘translational’ science (e.g. ‘how can we stop abnormal brain development?’).

There’s nothing wrong with translational work, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s hard to translate a lack of understanding into any kind of concrete benefit.

Just in case it’s not obvious, we really don’t understand the brain very well at all yet.  Basic research might seem ‘pie-in-the-sky’, but without it you don’t get anywhere.

Anything else to add?

Best job in the world.


Grubb Lab

Matt’s explanation of his research for the non-scientist  and a visual of his science as demonstrated by Nobby the Knitted Neuron.

Matt’s fantastic list of publications



The post Development of the electric brain. Interview with my favourite neuroscientist Dr Matt Grubb appeared first on Your Brain Health.

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De Poezenboot! We Brought Coffee To Amsterdam’s Delightful Floating Cat Charity

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlandsde poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

Photo courtesy of Djaro G.

“De Poezenboot. Goedemorgen?” That translates to “The Catboat. Good morning?” and it is how Judith, in a warm yet clearly down-to-business voice, answers the office phone. She is the manager and the public—human—face of a cat refuge long moored in the Singel, a large canal that once moated Amsterdam’s medieval center and still provides the embankment for Golden Age mansions.

By contrast, De Poezenboot (pronounced “POOH-sen boat”; poezen is Dutch for “cats”) appears as a simple wooden rectangle floating on concrete, in a boat style known as an ark. Hardly of Noah dimensions, the shelter can hold 50 cats at a time—this month they’re the chosen charity supported by sales of Santa Claude, a special holiday coffee collaboration between Sprudge, Cafe Imports, Roundhill Roasters, and Dutch Pack. Currently, there are 17 in-house cats, each with a distinctive personality, and while most of the cats at the shelter are rehomed in short order, some are too rascally to place with families, and now call De Poezenboot their forever floating home.

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

Kasumi is a yellow-eyed Persian that hams it up for the camera, but gets pushed aside by her housemates during mealtime and pees where she pleases. Samus, the dead ringer for Scut Farkus, comes with his own scratch-warning sign and last year posed in a photo with Ricky Gervais.

On a recent Wednesday, one of the two days the boat is closed to the public, Judith sat at her desk in the reception area. Between fielding calls, she talked about De Poezenboot and sipped a drink that Sprudge picked up prior to the interview. Good Beans, a nearby espresso bar which this past summer came under new American-Norwegian ownership, prepared Judith’s hot chocolate and an Americano with their own Rwandan Bourbon roast. The coffee went to Michi, a feline portrait artist and the volunteer that morning taking care of rigorous kennel cleaning.

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

Even though stray animals are not a systemic problem in the Netherlands, De Poezenboot has plenty of work. It takes in cats that are occasionally found on the street, orphaned, aging, or otherwise too difficult for owners to continue tending.

“Sometimes we have a whole family crying here because they have to bring in their cat,” says Judith.

As a schoolchild, she was one of De Poezenboot’s earliest volunteers, and eventually became a friend and a caregiver to Henriëtte van Weelde, the woman who began the sanctuary. That was in 1968, on a barge one canal over. Van Weelde died at age 90 in 2005.

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

Today, the De Poezenboot has 22 volunteers, organized into fixed teams that rotate boat shifts. Their main responsibilities are feeding, administering medicine, and cleaning. They also keep an eye on the neighborhood swan that likes to swim up to the deck and out-hiss its water-wary canal-mates. Some volunteers double as foster parents, socializing and nursing cats to more adoptable states. Judith had planned to do precisely that with a once “really tiny and scared” kitten, she recalls, but eight years later, Jumi is her family pet (as is a merle-coated Chihuahua named Rosa).

The boat survives on donations, with money put towards cat provisions plus mooring and other houseboat-related costs. The small fee that adopters pay largely covers health costs, including sterilization, vaccination, chipping, and sometimes deworming.

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

This past June, De Poezenboot celebrated its 50 year anniversary. Feline-themed festivities aside, the jubileum allowed the organization to raise funds for a campaign to help financially struggling Amsterdammers get their cats spayed and neutered “almost for free,” says Judith. The program is scheduled to run in February 2019.

In the meantime, rehoming remains the main mission. Would-be adopters who see a listing on the website or via social media can call or visit to inquire if they might be a good match.

“We do want to have the cats go to the most suitable house,” Judith emphasizes. “If we have a cat, for instance, that is scared of kids, but really beautiful, and somebody comes in and says, ‘Oh I like that beautiful cat,’ but she has three screaming kids, she will not get the cat.”

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

Yet, most adopters are, much like the creature they covet, sensitive and self-assured.

“We get nice people, people that think about what they’re doing, not people who are like ‘Oh give me a cat, and I don’t mind what kind of cat. Just give me one,’” says Judith.

Included in that group are business proprietors that seek a mouser or, for whatever reason, a whiskered workplace companion. Up the block, Café Kobalt got “a red one from us,” notes Judith, “and Café de Doelen also.” More recently, a local cigar store requested neither a cafe lounger nor a lap-sitter, but rather “an independent cat that goes his own way.” The satisfied owner has already emailed photos, says Judith. “Everybody loves him and he’s running through the store.”

de poezenboot amsterdam netherlands

De Poezenboot is located at Sigel 38G, Amsterdam. Visit their official website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Karina Hof is a Sprudge staff writer based in Amsterdam. Read more Karina Hof on Sprudge.

Support De Poezenboot and drink delicious coffee with Santa Claude! Worldwide shipping available.

The post De Poezenboot! We Brought Coffee To Amsterdam’s Delightful Floating Cat Charity appeared first on Sprudge.

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10 Key Tools for Editing Portraits Using Adobe Lightroom Mobile

Photo: Jye B

As humans, we relate to and love to capture photos of other people. Be it family, friends, strangers in street photography or professionally in a portrait studio.

Model/Actor: Patrick Walsh, Jr.

However, we don’t always have time to sit in front of a computer at home or in an office to edit our work. With the fantastic creation of Adobe Creative Cloud, you can now sync your Lightroom library to all your devices. You can create and edit images directly on your mobile phone or edit images created in any fashion, including in a studio. You can edit them in Lightroom Mobile on the go via laptop, tablet or smartphone.

While editing portraits, Lightroom Mobile, like its desktop counterpart, has many tools available to help take a snapshot of a great portrait. While it is helpful to explore every tool in the toolbox, here are ten key tools for editing portraits using Adobe Lightroom Mobile.

1. The Exposure Tool

Whether it’s midday outdoors and your image is a little overexposed or its a bit overcast and your image is a little underexposed, the exposure tool in the Lightroom Mobile app is a quick fix to brighten or darken a photo to your liking arbitrarily. In the image below, the mirror image of my subject was a little bit dark, so I bumped up the exposure just a little. Doing so lightened some of the shadows in the subjects sunglasses so that you could see his eyes better. It also helped to show more detail in the black coat.

In this case, bumping up the exposure helped bring out details.

2. The Contrast Tool

Adding contrast to an image creates more emphasis between light and dark colors in an image. However, sometimes contrast needs to be subtracted because too much can make similar tones can blend and lose definition. In the image below, I lowered the contrast to enhance the detail in my subject’s coat. Adding exposure in the first step brightened the subject as well as the mirror image. Although, it brightened the subject a little too much. I also dropped the highlights to put less focus on the brightest parts of the subject’s face.

Taking away contrast can show more detail. Taking away highlights can lessen the glare.

3. The Shadows Tool

You can utilize the ‘Shadows’ tool when sculpting to a face or body is required, or you can remove them to show more detail. In the image below, while I did bump up the exposure a little bit, I also took away shadow to show more of my subject’s eyes through the sunglasses. You can now see the irises and catchlights in the eyes. It has also lightened some of the lines on the face too.

Removing shadow can sometimes reveal more detail.

4. The Healing Tool

One of the most amazing Lightroom Mobile tools recently introduced is the ‘Healing’ tool. This tool allows you to correct things on portraits such as blemishes. In the image below, I tried to preserve the model’s natural moles and birthmarks while only removing unwanted blemishes using the Healing brush.

Before and after images using the Healing Brush in Lightroom Mobile.

5. The White Balance Tool

Sometimes you may capture an image where the white balance is a bit off. It could be too warm or too cold. The ‘Temperature’ slider under the ‘Color’ tab for ‘White Balance’ allows you to cool or warm an image. The below-left image was too cold, and the skin appeared gray. So, I boosted the warmth using the Color Temperature slider from 4400K to 4768K, giving a more natural color to the skin.

You can cool or warm an image using the ‘Temperature’ slider for ‘White Balance’ under the ‘Color’ tab.

6. The Clarity Tool

The ‘Clarity’ tool has a very magical effect when it comes to editing portraits – especially of women. If you have a portrait with harsh shine on the skin or the pores are extremely visible, softening the ‘Clarity’ helps to blur out some of those imperfections subtly. It can make skin appear smoother, as in the image below.

Softening Clarity can subtly blur out some imperfections and make skin appear smoother.

7. The Sharpening Tool

In portraiture, a sharp image is key. An essential portrait element to be sharp is the eyes, or at least the eye closest to the camera. Sometimes you may need to sharpen your image in Lightroom Mobile to achieve this.

Sometimes sharpening is necessary to get key features, like the eyes, crisper.

8. The Noise Reduction Tool

After sharpening, zoom in to check for unwanted noise in your image. If there is unwanted noise, Lightroom Mobile has an entire ‘Noise Reduction’ section under the ‘Effects’ tab that you can use to minimize noise in your portraits. The Noise Reduction tool is also helpful in smoothing out any highlighted rough skin.

The Noise Reduction tab helps get rid of noise and smooth out the rough skin under highlights.

9. The Presets Tool

The ‘Presets’ tab is a fun tab. There are several sub-menus under Presets with a variety of readymade one-click settings you can quickly apply to your portraits. As examples, I chose two from the ‘Creative’ sub-menu under Presets to apply to the original image below-left.

Left to right: Original image, Soft Mist, Aged Photo.

10. The Crop Tool

The last tool you may find you need while editing on-the-go is the ‘Crop’ tool. Sometimes we have too much in an image, whether by accident or on purpose, knowing we can edit it later. Lightroom Mobile allows you to select the area of an image you wish to keep. Using your fingers, you can drag the borders to where you want them placed, as per the image below.

Using Lightroom Mobile, drag borders with your fingers and click the checkmark to finished when cropping images.

Tying It All Together

Lightroom Mobile grants photographers many tools to edit on-the-go. You can take a regular capture and make it an extraordinary image. Take a few images, use the various tools of Lightroom Mobile, and learn how they can be adjusted more toward your vision. You’ll find the convenience of Lightroom Mobile second-to-none, with results being similar to those of a desktop computer.

Have you used Adobe Lightroom Mobile? What are your experiences with it? Let us know in the comments below.

The post 10 Key Tools for Editing Portraits Using Adobe Lightroom Mobile appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Creative Team Events in the USA

Mark Hunter

We last posted a blog on team building in the USA in 2013. Since then, we have seen a significant rise in enquiries, resulting in regular trips across the Atlantic to deliver our unique interactive events. There is always something extra exciting about working in the States and we relish the opportunity for making new connections and bringing our ideas to life.


I was lucky enough on my very first visit to the USA to see it from a stunning vantage point. As a young drummer working on the famous ocean liner the QE2, as luck would have it I was bound for New York on my very first voyage. Looking out from the bow of the ship, I eagerly awaited any sight of land. The first thing I saw, as the mist rose, was the Statue of Liberty greeting me after five days at sea across the wild Atlantic.

Who would have thought that many years later, I’d have the opportunity to work across the country from Newark to the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA!

These days, we might not arrive in such romantic fashion but certainly still bring excitement and wonder within the work we do.

The main reasons we attract interest from the USA are the uniqueness of our team building activities and how they are produced, and the ease in which the events are organised. Word soon gets around that the facilitators and artists we use consistently wow audiences wherever they go. They always leave fantastic event memories and ‘lock in’ whatever conference messages are required. Event organisers have enough on their plates sorting out presentation content, venue issues, transport and food. By providing no-fuss team activities that seamlessly fit into an agenda, we seem like a blessing!

So what have we been doing in the United States in the last few months?

I spent Paddy’s Day in Chicago, unleashing hundreds of pairs of rubber gloves on an unsuspecting conference. America might be the birthplace of Rhythm and Blues, but only we import back to them rhythm and rubber with our Clap Happy event!

From the urban streets of grimy south London, we sent over to sunny California our very own World Champion Beat Boxer. It may have been his unassuming surprise presence in the conference room, or the unbelievable sounds and beats of his opening performance, but I think it was his British accent that won the audience over to create one huge human beat box orchestra.

Human beatbox

We also had a One Voice event just outside New York and lots of separate drumming events all over the East Coast. I know we will be back across the pond very shortly as we have many pending enquiries. Until then, may we wish our transatlantic clients and colleagues all the best and hope to see them very soon.

For more information, please Contact Us.


Pages you may be interested in:

List of All Our Events  |  Blog Homepage  |   List of Indoor Events  | About Us

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Let’s protect everyone…

Have you ever seen a trapeze artist perform in a circus? Though his act is full of uncertainty and risk, the artist is able to perform without hesitation. What enables him to do this? The assurance of the safety net at the bottom. He has the surety in his mind that even if he falls while performing, he cannot get hurt because the safety net will catch him.
Similarly, we all seek that ‘safety net’ or protection in our life. This need for protection is fulfilled by different things including people, our status in life, the amount of money we have etc… These things provides us with security and peace of mind that helps us move on in life.
However, it is not enough to look for our own safety always. It is important that we also create an environment that allows other people to feel safe in our presence. When we make someone feel safe, it means that he/she does not fear us in any way. They can be open with us and not fear being judged for something they say or do.
Param Pujya Dada Bhagwan has defined this as the ultimate form of charity called, ‘Abhaya daan’. He says, ‘Abhaya daan is where one’s conduct is such that he will not raise fear in any living being. For abhaya daan, one should have the inner intention of not hurting any living being, even in the slightest degree. Only then will this come into practice.”
So on this auspicious occasion of Rakshabandhan, why don’t we decide to create a safe, open environment around us, which will enable others to feel protected in our presence?

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An Artist and Former Sex Worker Wants to Decolonize Gender in Indonesia

Tamara Pertamina, “Garuda: Protector-Predator? Ta Ma Ra” (2015) (Photo credit: Mie Cornoedus) (All images courtesy of the artist)

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia — Tamara Pertamina watched with a smirk from a bench beside me as I looked around ViaVia, a traveler’s cafe and gallery in the trendy part of Jogja, searching for her. I had been working on a photo essay about the waria, the Muslim transgender community in Indonesia, when I had the chance to meet the inimitable Tamara. A former sex worker, she’s now enrolled at university in Jogja, where she is researching gender identity in pre-colonial Indonesia with the plan to incorporate this scholarly work into her art and the advancement of trans rights globally.

Once she’d had enough fun watching me look for the long-haired Tamara I’d seen in pictures, she got up and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to face someone with short hair dressed in casual shorts and a loose-fitting tee. “Hello darling! I’m right here.” She fingered my hair. “I used to have hair like yours. Well, nicer than yours. But I cut it all off.”

Tamara Pertamina, from the series Project Tamara (2016) (Photo credit: Mie Cornoedus)

A tightly wound ball of manic energy, Tamara alternated between pensive and effusive in between swigs of beer and drags of cigarettes, as she told me how she landed in the art world.  “Most of my daily life is a performance,” she said. “Especially when I was busking. I didn’t realize that it could be viewed as art, so that was a natural place to start.” Through her theatrical performances in Indonesia and Australia, she has protested social justice issues such as illegal logging and the toxic effects of skin whitening creams.  While she has informally been making music since 2013, she plans to reach a broader audience with AMUBA, an all transgirl band she formed earlier this year.

“I view music as a very complete medium for ‘voicing,’ because we can convey complex issues through lyrics that are easy to understand and can interact directly with listeners through our shows,” she said.  “It’s also just more fun.” With that, she began to hum and then sing, “I don’t care if you can’t accept it, don’t care if you always disturb me… I just want to enjoy my life.”

Her throaty laugh punctuates most of her sentences, cueing that you, too, should join in laughter, even when she’s discussing her painful past. Tamara was born in 1989 in Taskimalaya, a city in western Java known for its abundance of pesantrens, or Islamic boarding schools. She was dropped off at one of these schools as a young boy at the age of 7. His father had often beaten him and his mother during alcoholic rages, so the school was a respite of sorts, but as he struggled with his transgender identity, the religious teachings became alienating and tiresome. He grew restless there, running away to begin a tumultuous life on the streets.

Tamara Pertamina, from the series Project Tamara (2016) (Photo credit: Mie Cornoedus)

Starting as a busker in Jakarta and then taking on sex work by age 15, Tamara experienced firsthand the marginalization and economic hardships that the transgender community faces in Indonesia. She began to organize fellow sex workers and get involved in activist efforts to defend transgender rights.  While her own family now accepts her, and the transgender community has historically been accepted as part of Indonesian society, rising Islamic extremism in recent years has begun to threaten the transgender people’s way of life there. When Tamara moved to Yogyakarta, the arts capital of Indonesia, in 2008, her work as an activist engaged her with local artists. Tamara began to see the power of art as a means of protest and vehicle for change.

“What I want to achieve for the transgender community through my works is to restore the idea that we are human beings who have opportunities and abilities that can be the same as other human beings,” she said.  While some issues are urgent enough to require direct protest, art allows room for deeper reflection and provides a softer approach.”

Tamara Pertamina, “Garuda: Protector-Predator? Ta Ma Ra” (2015) (Photo credit: Mie Cornoedus)

Much of Tamara’s work expands upon issues of identity. Through Tamara, a photography project in 2016, she wanted to show how she uses masculinity and femininity with flexibility despite the pressures of heteronormative society.  “Tamara was my most controversial exhibit. Several police came and asked me [to] cancel my exhibition because they viewed my work as pornography.”

Tamara’s fluid views of her own gender left her feeling isolated, even among many transgender women and men. Her search for a personal history that resonated with her inner reality led her to South Sulawesi, home to the Bugis ethnic group. The Bugis have historically maintained and still support the notion that there are five genders, adding transmen and transwomen to cisgenders, along with a sacred fifth metagender that embodies both masculine and feminine elements called bissu.

“Indonesians, before so many outside religious influences, did not view transgenders as unnatural or persecute those who were transgender,” Tamara said.  “I want to reference that history as artistic capital in the struggle for our rights now.”

With the help of her patron, Prisia Nasution, a martial artist, model and actress, Tamara enrolled in Sanata Dharma University earlier this year to study history. She plans to incorporate her scholarly work into her art in hopes of dismantling colonial gender constructs and reviving indigenous cultural values to create more opportunities for transgender people in Indonesia and beyond.

Tamara Pertamina, installation view of Pla-e-s-te-tic at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta (2018)

Tamara’s studio is in HONF Fab Lab, the first makerspace of its kind in Indonesia, one that seeks to bridge art, science and technology to tackle pressing social justice issues. When I visited, Tamara was just starting on her latest installation, Pla-e-s-te-tic, for exhibition at the cultural center Taman Budaya Yogyakarta.  She dumped heaps of neon plastic netting in various colors onto her work table before lighting a cigarette and staring deeply out beyond her supplies.  She’d interviewed some transgender friends about dream outfits they had wanted but would never be able to buy or make for themselves. She was attempting to realize these clothes of their dreams, using only plastic, to drive home the illusions of the fashion industry and global capitalism. Within two days, she turned the cheap plastic netting into runway-ready confections behind which she posted up a large collage of photographs featuring transgender people who’d injected silicone into their faces, a practice popular throughout the Indonesian transgender community for softening masculine features.

Tamara Pertamina rolling the CRISPR Sperm Bank through the streets of Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2018)

Tamara is fascinated with the natural and relishes exposing the synthetic masks that are put upon us by society.  “If my whole body can be made from ‘plastic’ now, what is organic? Only my heart,” she said. Her 2015 exhibition, Powder Room, at Jakarta’s Space Gallery, featured an extravagant gown made of raffia rope and plastic bags in front of a mirror to show how clothing, as representative of identity, can be a lie used to show others what they would like to see rather than reflect what we ourselves see.  She’s also exploring the meaning of gender, identity, and its expression — when all of those can be so easily manipulated — in her June 2018 project, “The CRISPR Sperm Bank: Experience Trans-species Possibilities.”  It’s meant to foster dialogue about the ramifications of synthetic biology and the consumer choices that might present themselves in the not-so-distant future.

Tamara Pertamina aims to become as ubiquitous as her namesake oil and gas company. “In Indonesia, almost everyone needs Pertamina, so I hope, as a human, I can also meet the needs of many people through my work,” she said. “Pertamina is a fuel, so on the one hand I can use it to keep the fire of my life alive, but on the other, that fire, my ego, can also burn me easily. I took on that name as a reminder to seek balance in addressing the social issues I confront through my work as an activist and artist.”

Tamara Pertamina, “Garuda: Protector-Predator? Ta Ma Ra” (2015) (Photo credit: Mie Cornoedus)
Tamara Pertamina’s transwomen band AMUBA (photo credit: Ratna Djuwita)
Tamara Pertamina, “Untitled” (2012)

The post An Artist and Former Sex Worker Wants to Decolonize Gender in Indonesia appeared first on Hyperallergic.

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