By UK/Indonesia 2016-18 team

01 April 2019 - 13:50

Emma Frankland and Tamara Pertamina in front of a Hand-drawn map. One of the works showcased in this exhibition.  ©

Doc. by British Council

It’s only really in the 21st century that many Europeans have started to understand the complexity and fluidity of gender; yet in Indonesia, there are indigenous ethnic groups that have acknowledged more than two genders for centuries.

In January 2019, two performance artists Tamara Pertamina (Indonesia) and Emma Frankland (UK) travelled together through South Sulawesi to meet with the Bissu, a gender-neutral identity in the Bugis tradition.

This research trip resulted a public presentation ‘Calabai Janggeng, In Search of Our Trans Ancestors’ on January 21st, HONF gallery, Jogjakarta. Together they shared their experience through a film and live performance, which included performative rituals that are an essential part of the Bissu community.

Emma Frankland and Tamara Pertamina while doing a public presentation to tell the story of their residency. 

As trans women artists from different backgrounds, both Tamara and Emma were fascinated to explore a different, ancient approach to thinking about gender throughout their trip in South Sulawesi. Over ten days they participated in ritual ceremonies, lived and laughed with different Bissu leaders as well as local calabai (etymologically meaning ‘nearly female’) and calalai (etymologically meaning ‘nearly male’), both discovering a hidden culture and asking questions of themselves.