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Museums laud design inspired by, committed to nature

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The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York and the Cube design museum in Kerkrade, Netherlands, have joined forces in Nature, a blockbuster show devoted to cutting-edge designs both inspired by nature and entwined in nature, with a focus on sustainability.

The show is sobering, at times humourous, sometimes heart-breaking (an extinct rhino that is made to come to life digitally, then vanish again in an instant), and decidedly uplifting when taken in as a whole.

“We searched labs and design studios around the world looking for innovative designs,” says Andrea Lipps, one of the curators at Cooper Hewitt who helped organise the show for the museum’s triennial. And they found them: “There are a lot of people, from all different disciplines, joining together and working very, very hard to find creative solutions to the enormous challenges we face.”

Nature, which explores the ways designs drawn from nature can address today’s environmental challenges, features 62 designers from around the world. The show opened at both museums simultaneously on May 10, and will remain on view at both venues through January 20, 2020.

“With 2018 the Earth’s fourth-warmest year on record and global carbon emissions at an all-time high, the crisis of human-caused climate change has never been more dire,” says Caroline Baumann, director of the Cooper Hewitt.

“Solutions will not emerge without radical new thinking. Nature brings together some of the most creative and intelligent designers whose works address our complex relationship to nature and its precious resources, and advocate for greater empathy for our planet,” she says.

Accompanied by a detailed book, Nature: Collaborations in Design, published by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, the show is organised thematically into sections titled Understand, Simulate, Salvage, Facilitate, Augment, R emediate and Nurture.

At the Cooper Hewitt, the sprawling exhibit opens on the main floor, includes an enormous work installed in the garden, and winds around and up to the third floor.

The Understand section explores ways designers can use scientific knowledge to enhance understanding of nature, and features a work called Curiosity Cloud by the Austrian design team Mischer Traxler. The work, designed to draw attention to nature’s fragility, is composed of glass bulbs, each containing a handmade version of an insect species native to New York. When visitors walk through the delicate bulbs, the insects flutter, their wings clicking against the glass.

In the garden, Petrified River is an immense work made of cast concrete — an imagined landscape of Manhattan before being settled by Europeans.

Back in the galleries, Goatman describes a project in which British designer Thomas Thwaites created a complex exoskeleton for himself that allowed him to literally live — and eat grass — among goats for three days.

“It meant eating a lot of grass, and he missed being a human after that,” Lipps says. “But he learned a great deal about simplification.”

The Remediate section includes a “Sustainable Burial Suit” seeded with mushrooms, meant to be an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional coffins or cremation. And Totomoxle features wall panels made from heirloom corn husks, with their naturally vibrant colours.

Nearby is a Monarch Sanctuary, which imagines how the facades of buildings could be reconceived to become butterfly sanctuaries, with places for native plants like milkweed to grow.

As if all that weren’t mind-bending enough, the main hall features a work that resembles a strange, enormously tall, sort of colourful insect wing. The panels of the wing-like sculpture, Aguahoja II, are made largely of pectin and shrimp shells, with colours derived from natural sources like squid ink and beets.

“It’s theoretically even edible,” says Lipps.

The work is meant to draw attention to the fact that while permanent materials like metal and stone have long been revered, there is also value in materials designed to have a limited lifespan and then go back to nature, she explains.

On the third floor of the museum, Fantasma, made by a Japanese design team, features naturally glowing silk made from silkworms injected with a green fluorescent protein derived from jellyfish.

In the Salvage section, meanwhile, ink has been derived from exhaust soot — a practical use for pollution. There is also a prototype for Adidas sneakers made entirely of ocean plastic, and another prototype of sneakers that would be entirely compostable.

Nearby are beautiful vessels made from 3-D printed bioplastic derived from algae, bandages inspired by the adhesive that helps sea slugs cling to wet surfaces, and a lamp powered by the microorganisms in a cylindrical container of soil.

“There’s a level of optimism when you look around and see designers really taking on the challenge of all this,” Lipps says. “There’s a groundswell of creativity that’s continuing to reverberate.”

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Bomb blast hits tourist bus near Egypt pyramids, injuring 17

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GIZA, Egypt (AFP) — A bomb blast hit a tourist bus near Egypt’s famed Giza pyramids on Sunday, wounding at least 17 people, including South Africans, in the latest blow to the country’s tourism industry.

 The roadside bomb went off as the bus was being driven in Giza, also causing injuries to Egyptians in a nearby car, medical and security sources said.

 There were no deaths reported.

 “A device exploded and smashed the windows of a bus carrying 25 people from South Africa and a private car carrying four Egyptians,” the security source said.

Video footage captured by AFP showed the bus and car with broken windows on the side of the road.

According to the security source, the wounded were being treated for scratches caused by the broken glass.

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesman for South Africa’s department of international relations, told AFP that “there might be South Africans involved” but declined to give any figures.

Sunday’s incident comes after three Vietnamese holidaymakers and their Egyptian guide were killed when a roadside bomb hit their bus as it travelled near the Giza pyramids outside Cairo in December.

It also comes just little more than a month before the African Cup of Nations hosted by Egypt is to kick off.

 Egypt has been battling an insurgency that surged especially in the turbulent North Sinai region following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was replaced by former army general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

 In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide operation against militants, focusing mainly on the North Sinai region.

Some 650 militants and around 45 soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to separate statements by the armed forces.

Since first being elected in 2014, Sisi has presented himself as a bulwark against terrorism, promising stability and increased security.

Recently, the country’s vital tourism industry has started to slowly rebound after suffering strong blows due to deadly attacks targeting tourists following the turmoil of the 2011 uprising that toppled long time ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Figures by the official statistics agency showed that tourist arrivals reached 8.3 million in 2017, compared with 5.3 million the previous year.

Authorities have gone at great lengths to lure tourists back, touting a series of archaeological finds and a new museum next to the pyramids, as well as enhanced security at airports and around ancient sites.

 But that figure was still far short of the record influx of 2010 when more than 14 million visitors flocked to see the country’s sites.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Is charity the new publicity stunt?

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Dear Editor, 

Recently, a famous dancehall entertainer lashed out at an Instagram follower who criticised one of her posts. 

In this particular video post, we see the entertainer delivering clothes and appliances to a needy family in Jamaica. The follower expressed that some people seem to be doing “things for fame” as their acts of charity are often posted on social media. Not surprisingly, she was subsequently hurled with some “bloody-bamboo” cloth for her comment. 

In a follow-up post, the entertainer explained that the items were donated by a number of people. Consequently, it was necessary to publicise their delivery so that the “people who donated their money can see [that] the stuff went to the people.” 

Certainly, I applaud people, such as this entertainer, for generously giving to those in need. Such an act is commendable, and many of us should really follow suit. However, like her follower, I am not always comfortable with the broadcasting of charitable acts. 

Last Christmas, I saw the showcasing of many similar charities. Several of my social media “friends,” for example, presented boxes of food to the homeless. Their kindness was heartening, but something about their doing was deeply off-putting.  

Some of these people presented the food in a manner quite akin to one presenting certificates at an award ceremony. 

They outstretched the food boxes with one hand, extended the other for a handshake, paused in position and smiled for the camera. The pictures were then plastered all over their Instagram and Facebook pages. Now, what is the real reason for doing all this? Who truly benefits? 

Growing up, I speculated that my mother gave away many of our outgrown clothes. They just disappeared. In fact, one day, I even saw a little girl in a dress resembling one I owned. However, I could only have assumed that it was mine as Mum kept all the recipients secret.

She feared that we would have flapped our mouths about these persons or worse, jeer the children for wearing “second hand”. Therefore, I learnt from very early that people may be very poor and needy, but they still have their pride. Allow people the privacy to enjoy what you give them.

Nobody wants to be on the road and constantly pointed at and talked about because he or she was broadcast on social media as a charity beneficiary. 

Please, continue to give, but you do not need to make a show of this. Charity should never be a social or political ploy. 

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock

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12-y-o Tameica Parry reported missing

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — A High Alert has been activated for 12-year-old Tameica Parry, student of Fairview Avenue, Kingston 11 who has been missing since Saturday, May 18.

Tameica is of dark complexion, slim build and is about 5 feet 3 inches tall.

Reports are that Tameica was last seen at home. Her mode of dress at the time she went missing is unknown. 

Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Tameica is being asked to contact the Olympic Gardens Police at 876-923-5468, Police 119 emergency number or the nearest police station.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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