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GlobalNiche Muse

Exploring the (metaphorical!) meaning behind the graphical muse we love at creative enterprise for the global soul. Here's the story of our whimsical pioneer of a woman peering out from the center of her own personal compass point. This is how I made her, where she comes from, what she's survived -- and also, circumstantially, why she's so well-coiffed. ~ Anastasia Ashman


  1. Just thought I'd tell you a bit about how this image came to be. It's part photograph, part 2nd generation photocopy, and part Photoshop. I made it in 1998 in my ergonomic, air-conditioned office in the suburban sprawl of Kuala Lumpur. There were very few people nearby who understood what I was doing or why I wanted to do it. Luckily I did it anyway!

  2. Photography is a now-not-so-secret love of mine, and it was a saving grace of my first long-term expat stint in Southeast Asia. Seeing everything with a photographer's eye made my surroundings endlessly fascinating and ripe with opportunity, no matter what else was happening or how I was feeling. It was also a key to orienting myself, following leads, making connections between the past and the present cultures.

    The quickly-disappearing antique commercial signboards of the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca and Singapore) were a particular favorite of mine. You can imagine when I landed in the East Malaysia state of Sarawak I went straight to the old town to see the remnants of what establishments had once flourished there.

    Although the inevitable lag of fashion around the world might be at work here, from her hairstyle I guess the sign went up in the 1930s-40s. If anyone guesses differently, let me know please!

  3. ...and not only self-image, but a unique perspective on the world itself. World view.
  4. I was an absolute microfiche *bandit* at the National you can see some of the Straits Settlements newspaper gossip items and police blotters I captured. Hilarious, tragic, telling stuff no matter what the subject (whether it was Somerset Maugham's buttoned-down planters going nuts/running amok, or infectious diseases being passed around by the Chinese laundry services, or opium dens being fined for admitting ladies, the place was off-the-hook).

    The steamer-trunks-and-servants Golden Age of travel was also an interest piqued by the region, and I explored it for a web venture Flaming East.

  5. The White Rajahs were a dynasty of Brits who ruled Sarawak for about a hundred years during the mid-19th-20th century.

    Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness, had earlier written Lord Jim, which may have been based in part on the pirate-filled sea experiences of the first White Rajah James Brooke. 

    To that setting of personal, mini-empire building, add the coiffed nature of this woman and you get someone who seems like she's holding it together somehow. She's managing to take care of herself.

    At we're not all about personal grooming -- nor are we conquering anything except perhaps our situations (setting up our own private rajs?). 

    ...but this specific and historical background was swirling around the image of the coiffed lady when I snapped it as a displaced Western woman in the tropics myself. To me, the context was captured along with the image.

    Being yourself *and* at home in a place very different than what you've known or been prepared for -- that remains a most enticing feat for people like me

    Out of place, and mistress of her domain...that is the GlobalNiche combo!

  6. And in conclusion...just as the Golden Age of Travel revolutionized the possibilities of exploring the world with confidence

    at we're operating globally with the ease of digital nomadism and with the precision the comes from a unique sense of who we are

    ...suddenly our historical heroine -- our wild-but-coiffed woman of Borneo -- is thoroughly modern, and appropriate for today's unbounded age. 

  7. Tell us what you see in the wild-but-coiffed woman of Borneo. What name would you give her? (I think we're going to need one!)