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Person of the Forest

With the Penan Tribe & Orangutans of Borneo
The Borneo Rainforest is vital to us all

Schools & children are invited to ‘travel’ with the Last Chance to Paint team deep into the Borneo Rainforest to meet the Penan tribe and orangutans. Paint alongside artist John Dyer and exhibit on the World Gallery to highlight what we stand to lose. Discover the music & culture of the rainforest, meet baby orangutans and investigate rainforest science with our superb free teaching resources. An extraordinary, interactive project to inspire and connect children to our natural world.


"The hunter-gatherer Penan in Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of Borneo, are battling to stop the destruction of their last remaining forests, and their way of life. Their forests are being cleared for logging, oil palm plantations and hydroelectric dams, robbing them of their means of survival."


Survival International

Photo of Nyapun (third from left) and his two wives, his eldest son and son in law with Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE. 2019

Your class can 'travel' to Borneo now



Our downloadable resources are primarily designed for Key Stage 2 but are easily adaptable for all Key Stages with links to Art and Design, Geography, Science, English, SMSC and Citizenship curricula. They are also great for parents to use with their children.

Five lessons and full teacher notes



Watch our 'live' 5 minute daily video blogs with your class that we sent from Borneo



Read our 'live' blog to your class we published from Borneo and be in the moment with us 



Make a list of questions your class would like to ask us and send them in and we will answer



Our art will inspire your children to create their own so they can connect to Borneo


Deforestation for palm oil and logging is causing huge damage to the rainforests of Borneo. We travelled to meet the Penan tribe in Sarawak and explored their culture, knowledge and music. The Penan children joined in with 'Last Chance to Paint' by painting and drawing their rainforest and tribal village.

Palm oil is a super-efficient crop, meaning that we can produce ten times more oil on the same area of land compared to other oil crops like soybean oil or coconut oil. It is also less dependant on pesticides and fertilisers and is produced from African oil palms. The bad news is that these plantations are creating a huge loss of rainforest, over 80% in Borneo and adding many animals, including the orangutan, to the critically endangered list.


The Penan live in Mulu, Sarawak and are one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes although the majority of the tribe now lives in settlements. Mulu is a world heritage area. We painted with the Penan tribe and in the rainforest from September 6th to September 10th 2019 before heading to the far south of Borneo to Central Kalimantan and with the help of the Orangutan Foundation and permission of the Indonesian Government we were allowed to travel deep into the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve to meet and paint wild and orphaned orangutans.

What do we want you to do?

We want you to use the art of John Dyer, combined with our video diaryphotographs, music we recorded and blogs to immerse your school and children in the subject of the Borneo rainforest. Encourage them to reflect, connect and to then create their own piece of rainforest inspired art based on plants, the Penan tribe or orangutans and to upload it to our Help us to make real connections between peoples and to create the largest online art gallery of art celebrating the natural world. View the ‘Person of the Forest’ gallery now and get ready to upload your children’s art.

Meet the Penan tribe

Nyapun's home in the rainforest in the 1970s

Nyapun is one of the oldest of the Penan people, being well over 80 years old and is a close personal friend of Robin Hanbury-Tenison, who took this beautiful photograph in the 1970s when they first met during a Royal Geographical Society Expedition to Borneo. Life has changed monumentally in Mulu, Borneo and for Nyapun and his family over the last 50 years with well over 90% of the rainforest having been cut down since then. Our 'Person of the Forest' chapter of Last Chance to Paint is a last chance for us all to meet Nyapun and to see how the tribe live today. Some Penan groups still try to follow a hunter gathering life in the rainforest, but the vast majority, including the Penan at Mulu and Nyapun's family have been forcibly settled by the government and issued with id cards even though many have no known date of birth and they just pick a number as they don't know their age. There is so much we must learn from the past so we can improve the future and the Penan provide a unique insight into a people who have lived through extreme change and who were once self sufficient for food, health, shelter, culture and tools from the rainforest.

Photograph © Robin Hanbury-Tenison


Nyapun and his family photographed in the 1970s when they still lived a hunter gathering nomadic life

Nyapun can be seen on the far left of this photograph and his wife to his right can also be seen playing the nose flute in the video below in 2019. Their lives have changed so much as the rainforest has been cleared for logging and palm oil and they are now forced to live in a small village located between the remaining rainforest and the airport. Beyond the airport and all the way to Brunei there is now no rainforest left.

Photograph © Robin Hanbury-Tenison

What are the outcomes?

By spending time painting and drawing the Penan tribe and orangutans your children will connect, ask questions, value and learn a great deal about the Borneo rainforest in a natural and personal way. Our 'Person of the Forest' adventure provides your class with a unique insight into life in the Borneo rainforest.

The project naturally brings up the complex issues surrounding agriculture, population, commercial use of vegetable oils, deforestation for logging and palm oil and how we need to urgently find a balance in the future so that ecosystems and man can co-exist sustainably. We hope you will use our resources as inspiration for a wider conversation with your children on these issues.

Your children's art on the World Gallery

Let your children bear witness to what we are all doing to the planet and creatively protest, have a voice, connect and highlight what we all stand to lose by exhibiting their personal artwork inspired by our projects on the World Gallery.

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