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Innova Art 'Person of the Forest, Borneo' The Penan people and Orangutans in the Borneo Rainforest

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.

Let's make this 'live', real and personal for your children

Watch the 'live' 5 min daily video blogs with your class
Read the 'live' daily blog to be in the moment with us
Send your questions during & after the expedition
Submit the children's art to the World Gallery


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. We travelled to the far south of Borneo to Central Kalimantan and the Orangutan Foundation with the Indonesian Government allowed John Dyer to travel deep into the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve to meet and paint the orangutans.



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.

From the 11th to 18th September we painted and learnt about orangutans. There are several reserves for orangutans in Borneo as so many have been injured or lost their homes due to deforestation. Spotting orangutans in the wild is very difficult so we will met the ‘forest people’ at the Orangutan Foundation in Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo to get a true sense of their beguiling nature and the sheer beauty of the tropical forests they live in.

What do we want you to do?

What do we want you to do?

We want you to use the art of John Dyer combined with our ‘LIVE’ video diary, the ability for you to send us questions from the children and our interactive blogs to immerse your school and children in the subject of the Borneo rainforest and to ‘travel’ with us.

The reflective space created whilst making a piece of art is the moment children will bond to the subject, learn & care

John Dyer

Encourage your children to question, connect and to then create their own piece of rainforest inspired art based on the Borneo rainforest plants and animals, the Penan people or orangutans and to upload it to our

Help us to make real connections between peoples and to create the largest online art gallery celebrating the natural world. View the gallery now and get ready to upload your children’s art.



By spending time painting and drawing with the Penan tribe we will all learn a great deal about the rainforest and their culture. It will be a unique insight into tribal life and a privilege to work alongside the tribe.

The project will naturally bring up the complex issues surrounding agriculture, population, commercial use of vegetable oils, deforestation for logging and how we need to urgently find a balance in the future so that ecosystems and man can co-exist.

We hope that the children who engage in the project will have a chance to ask direct questions to the scientists and conservationists working with the orangutans and to talk with John Dyer as he embarks on his series of new paintings. They will also be able to ask the Penan questions and share their drawings and paintings with the children from the tribe. This cultural and scientific exchange should build lifelong connections.

Teaching Resources available to download now

Teaching Resources available to download now

The Born Free Foundation, with the help of the Eden Project and the Last Chance to Paint team have created downloadable lesson plans and teacher notes for learning about the Borneo rainforest and to follow the ‘Person of the Forest’ adventure.


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.

Full teaching notes for teachers available in a pdf file.

Chapter 2 'Person of the Forest' Teacher Notes (1041 downloads)

Full lesson plans in PowerPoint format.

Lesson 1: The Penan Tribe (1048 downloads)

Lesson 2: Rainforest Plants (1039 downloads)

Lesson 3: Rainforest Wildlife (1039 downloads)

Lesson 4: The Balance (1040 downloads)

Lesson 5: Make Your Mark (1047 downloads)

Download the 5 lessons and the teacher notes from

We also have additional videos to inspire and ideas on our educators’ page.


Martha-Lilly Dyer took lots of amazing photos that will inspire you and your children

Nyapun's home

Nyapun is one of the oldest of the Penan being well over 80 years old and is a close personal friend of Robin Hanbury-Tenison, who took this beautiful photograph. Nyapun and Robin first met each other in the 1970s. Life has changed monumentally in Mulu 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 will be a last chance for us all to meet Nyapun and an opportunity for Robin and Nyapun to see each other again. Photograph © Robin Hanbury-Tenison

Nyapun and his family

Nyapun can be seen on the far left of this photograph. © Robin Hanbury-Tenison


Day 1 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

The Last Chance to Paint team fly in over the rainforest in Borneo and head to Gunung Mulu National Park to start their adventures. Martha-Lilly, Robin and John walk through the rainforest listening to frogs and spotting insects as they head to the ‘Deer Cave’ to see 3 millions bats leave the cave to feed. They walk back in the dark through the forest and discover a host of intersting insect life.

Day 2 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

On the team’s first morning in Mulu, they head to Batu Bungan, the village of the Penan tribe, where they perform music and run an art workshop with the Penan children. The children paint ad draw their life and village for ‘Person of the Forest’ with longhouses, the forest and butterflies featuring. Martha-Lilly Dyer performs a new piece of music specially composed for the event by Jake Thorpe. Later in the day, Robin Hanbury-Tenison meets his old friend Nyapun who he originally met in 1977 when Nyapun and his family were nomadic. The family play traditional Penan instruments including nose flutes.

Day 3 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

Today Robin Hanbury-Tension takes the team up to ‘Clear Water Cave’ which is the longest underground river in South East Asia. They call into Batu Bungan the Penan village and see a poison dart tree and also try Rambutan a tropical fruit. The team discover that the Penan people don’t know their age as being raised as nomads in the forest dates were not part of their culture. Having been forcibly settled by the Malaysian government and issued id cards they have had to randomly choose a birth date and just guess their age. The team find the bones of a pig that fell into the cave and many geological features. After a hot walk in and out of the cave, the team take a swim in the river before heading downriver to Long Iman the original Penan settlement. The journey is difficult due to the very low water levels.

Day 4 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

Today the team walk to the ‘Deer Cave’ and their Penan guide Ismail explains the medicinal uses of many rainforest plants on the way and shows us the palm they use to start fires and a fern to wash your hair with! Ismail was raised in the rainforest as a boy but now lives in the Penan village of Batu Bungan. The 300 meter high cliffs welcome the team to the entrance of the cave. 12 species of bats live in the cave and every evening 15 tons of food is caught by the bats. The team find a skin shed by a racer snake and walk across vast amounts of bat poo!

Day 5 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

Robin takes the team up a ‘Batu’ to get a view over the rainforest but due to thunder, the make a hasty retreat. Robin leaves Mulu to head back to the UK and John paints the bat cave and the Penan village of Batu Bungun featuring Nyapun’s house. Martha-Lilly has another go on a nose flute. Later in the day John and Martha-Lilly head up a tower into the rainforest canopy to get a closer look at the trees and plants and spot a tiny rainforest squirrel. On the way back they discover a huge snail on the forest floor and answer questions from schools.

Day 6 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

The team leave Mulu in Malaysia to head to Jakarta in Indonesia where they have to stay overnight before taking a flight to the Orangutan Foundation the following day. This is a short video documenting the team’s travels.

Day 7 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

The Last Chance to Paint team is delayed by forest fires but eventually, arrive at the Orangutan Foundation in Pangkalan Bun and talk to the program director Hendra Gunawan about the work the foundation does. The Orangutan Foundation team take the team via 4×4 and then high-speed boat and longboat to Camp JL in the Lamandau wildlife reserve which is the base for the next few days. Ashes and smoke increase as the team head further into the reserve and the boat hits many logs as much illegal logging takes place.

Day 8 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

The team’s first day with the baby orangutans, Mona age 3.5 and Timtom age 3.5 and Adib age 3 who are all orphans. John paints the orangutans as they explore and feed on fruits in the trees. The team see how the young orangutans are cared for. A mother and her young baby visit camp JL from the forest and John captures the moment in paint.

Day 9 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

Macaque monkeys visit the camp and the orangutans feed in the trees. John paints a nocturn of the orangutans in their nests and Martha-Lilly has an impromptu cuddle from a baby orangutan! The forest fires increase in intensity and chared rainforest leaves keep falling from the sky. The team take the longboat to visit camp Gemini and explore the forest and the orangutans living there. Adult orangutans follow the team into the forest where they are fed bananas to supplement their diet. Dimas Yuzrifar the resident vet tells us about a recent rescue of a mother orangutan and the operation he performed to remove bullets from her body.

Day 10 - Person of the Forest, Borneo

Forest fires increase again filling camp JL with smoke and blocking out the sun. The atmosphere is full of smoke and the team are given masks to wear before deciding to leave the camp to take refuge in the nearby town of Pangkalan Bun. As the team head downriver the sky is full of smoke which can be seen rising over the rainforest. The rainforest is being burnt to clear it for palm oil plantations reducing even further the amount of habitat available for wildlife and orangutans.

Orangutan drawings

'LIVE' from the Borneo Rainforest


Get your children painting and drawing now and send in their ‘Person of the Forest’ art so we can celebrate it and what we all stand to lose on the
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Chapter Sponsor

Innova Art has kindly sponsored our ‘Person of the Forest, Borneo’  chapter of ‘Last Chance to Paint’ and we are very grateful to them. We use Innova Art paper at The John Dyer Gallery for our art poster range and Innova Art share our passion for art, education and connecting people to the environment.

“Innova Art is wholly committed to preserving the environment for future generations. As such we ensure that all of the materials for the base of our papers are ethically sourced, maintaining the future of the world’s natural resources.”


The Orangutan Foundation is kindly helping with our ‘Innova Art – Person of the Forest, Borneo’ chapter of ‘Last Chance to Paint’. Ashley Leiman, OBE, the director of the foundation is helping us to plan and be able to see orangutans at the Lamandau wildlife reserve.

“The Orangutan Foundation runs its own programmes in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. We work in collaboration with The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry We place a strong emphasis on capacity building of key stakeholders who include local communities, local NGO’s, local business and regional government. With their inclusion comes conservation success and sustainability.”


Steppes Travel have very kindly supported ‘Person of the Forest’ and the Last Chance to Paint team with their expert knowledge, advice and generous sponsorship. Steppes Travel have many working partners around the world that are involved in protecting the environment, including the Orangutan Foundation,  and we are thrilled to be working with them.

“Conservation, sustainability and giving back is at the core of everything we do. Find out more.”