Scratching the Surface project | MedanMarch 2018

Photo: Nicholas Chin

This new piece, located in Medan, Sumatra (Indonesia), was created in partnership with Splash and Burn​, a creative initiative using art as a platform to campaign for critical environmental issues. This piece was created to raise awareness about a new species of Orangutan discovered in the forests of Northern Sumatra, which is already endangered due to unregulated practices of palm oil farming in the region, as well as irresponsible construction. This practice has had a widespread negative impact, leading to forest fires, deforestation, human displacement and a decrease in wildlife populations. Through a powerful lobby, the palm oil industry is taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of local communities, devastating native ecosystems to meet increasing global demand through unsustainable and unethical monoculture farming, leading to the destruction of lives and the environment.

Along with the efforts of different NGOs, the mural aims to bring this issue to a global audience and bridge the gap between the corruption surrounding this industry and the wider consciousness of global consumers.

Scratching the Surface project | MedanMarch 2018

Photo: Ernest Zacharevic

Scratching the Surface project | MedanMarch 2018

Photo: Ernest Zacharevic

In early November 2017, scientists announced the discovery of a new species of Great Ape in Sumatra: the Tapanuli Orangutan. With only 800 left, this is the most endangered Great Ape species in the world. Found in the Batang Toru forest in the Tapanuli highlands of Northern Sumatra, 85% of this forest complex is protected under Indonesian Law but due to lack of enforcement, there have been incursions in the land. This rainforest is now the site planned for A 510MW hydropower dam, financed with overseas investment.

Tapanuli orangutan

Photo: Andrew Walmsley

Vhils is the 9th artist to participate in the environmental campaign, which calls attention to the production of palm oil in Southeast Asia. Addressing the unsustainable effects both locally and globally, the dwindling wildlife population is a topic previously addressed by Italian Artist PixelPancho and Spanish sculptor Isaac Cordal in earlier Splash and Burn campaigns. For the latest project, the threat posed is adjacent to the palm issue, but holds the same blinkered approach to capitalist expansion with the consequences for communities, wildlife and our ecosystems considered collateral damage.

Batang Toru Forest

Photo: Andrew Walmsley

Splash and Burn is an awareness campaign responding creatively to unregulated farming practices of palm oil in Indonesia. Tackling issues such as the transboundary haze, deforestation, human and animal displacement; murals/sculptures and interventions have been appearing throughout cities and the vast natural landscape of Sumatra. The campaign is collaborating with a number of local and international NGOs, including London-based charity SOS and Indonesian-based NGO OIC. The project is initiated by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, who over the last two years has been actively researching the issue, visiting and scouting locations and connecting with experts and specialists in the field.

Conflict palm oil is a longstanding controversial issue that receives much media attention in peak moments of crisis, but very little in the months between the burning seasons. With global consumption increasing beyond the need to conserve our impact on our environment and communities, Ernest aims to introduce a new perspective to the conversation on palm oil. Through a number of unique art projects, Splash and Burn offers a creative platform for organisations and NGOs fighting for positive change.

 

Visit the project’s website for further info.