'Person of the RainForest' The Penan people and Orangutans in the Borneo Rainforest

  • "Orangutans share 97% of their DNA with us making them our closest relatives. They really are the people of the forest, but just like tribal peoples we are destroying their habitat and we need to find a new way forward before we lose this amazing animal and the forests they live in."

    John Dyer
  • "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
Why?

Why?

Deforestation for palm oil and logging is causing huge damage to the rainforests of Borneo. We plan to travel to meet the Penan tribe in Sarawak and to explore their culture, knowledge and art. The Penan children will join ‘Last Chance to Paint’ by painting and drawing their rainforest at Mulu and its beauty. They intend to share with us everything they know and love about the rainforest.

Palm oil is a super-efficient crop, meaning that we can produce a lot more palm oil per 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 and adding many animals, including the orangutan, to the critically endangered list. We want to connect directly through art to the orangutans themselves.

Where and when?

Where and when?

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 are currently talking with the Penan to identify the best time for the expedition.

Part two of the Borneo adventure will be to meet 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 meet the ‘forest people’ at the reserves and also visit their natural habitat to get a true sense of their beguiling nature and the sheer beauty of the tropical forests.

What will John Dyer paint?

What will John Dyer paint?

Painting alongside the Penan people will give John Dyer an insight into their culture and visual language. Their art and the art of the Penan children will inform the artist’s work as he paints the rainforest of Mulu and the Penan people.

Painting orangutans is the second part of this project and one the artist can’t wait to take on, especially after being with the Penan as their knowledge and art will inspire his work on orangutans.

Outcomes

Outcomes

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.

“WE BELIEVE THAT ART CAN HELP TO CHANGE THE WORLD”


Are you already inspired to paint, draw, collage or create on the subject of 'Person of the Rainforest, Borneo'?


If you are already itching to get creative and to connect to the subject of ‘Person of the Forest’ through art then don’t hold back! You can send us your very best art already and we will proudly celebrate it on our online gallery for you. We do have some terms and conditions you will need to read before submitting your art and all art must be submitted by an adult. We are looking for your absolutely best work, something you will be proud to put on your wall at home and to see online in ten years time – so make it fantastic and make it from the heart. We can’t wait to see what you do.