!!splash_and_burn11 (1)Ernest Zacharevic in Medan | Photo by Hype Media

Recently, Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic brought together a group of artists to begin a curated public works project on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. A play on “slash-and burn,” this project, titled “Splash and Burn” brings to light the problem of illegal palm oil harvesting in Indonesia. Over the course of two years, Zacharevic has gathered a group of creatives which include, Mark Jenkins, Axel Void, Pixel Pancho, Isaac Cordal, Strok, Gabriel Pitcher and Bibichun. Smane 2, Combat, and Reginal O’Niel have also contributed to the project.

splash-and-burn-street-art-campaign-indonesia-designboom-09 Isaac Cordal in North Sumatra | Photo by Isaac Cordal

Conflict palm oil harvesting is not only an environmental issue but a human rights violation due to its effects on transboundary haze, deforestation, and human and animal displacement.Indonesia happens to be the largest producer of palm oil. Facing the large consumer demand for palm oil and timber, the local economy resorts to the “slash-and-burn” to clear up large patches of forest land for palm oil plantations. Farmers first cut down vegetation and set a fire to quickly clear the rest. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that up to 300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour. Indonesia happens to be the largest producer of palm oil.This not only affects Indonesia but forests worldwide.

2splash-and-burn-street-art-campaign-indonesia-designboom-03Ernest Zacharevic in Bukit Lawang | Photo by Ernest Zacharevic

In regards to the environment, “Slash-and-burn” produces emits greenhouse gases, harms local vegetation, threatens biodiversity, destroys animal homes, and pollutes the water. The fires produce a thick smog that engulfs the air. The yellow toxic air has caused 6 Indonesian provinces to declare a state of emergency. To put it in perspective, anything above a 300 pollution index is considered hazardous. Areas of Indonesia can reach as high as 2,000 on the pollution index.

splash-and-burn-street-art-campaign-indonesia-designboom-05Mark Jenkins in Riau Peatlands | Photo by Ernest Zacharevic

Local communities are the first to feel these effects. Deforestation threatens the livelihood of farmers and locals outside of the palm oil industry. Many companies develop farms without the consideration of indigenous people who rely on or occupy the land. Rarely are these people compensated. Children as young as 7 years old can be found working for these companies to support their families. They are paid low wages for long hours and sometimes paid none at all. According to the NGO, Friends of the Earth, the palm oil industry is one of the top four worst industries of forced and child labor.

yessplash-and-burn-street-art-campaign-indonesia-designboom-02Ernest Zacharevic in Medan | Photo by Ernest Zacharevic

Zacherevic first became interested in the matter when clouds of smoke traveled from Indonesia to the location of his studio in Penang, Malaysia. Though the issue does receive some International attention, Zacherevic felt that the media needed to bring light to the outside of the burning seasons. Working with international as well as local Indonesian NGOs such as OIC, “Splash and Burn” creates a platform for an otherwise overlooked crisis. Over the course of two years, Zacherevic worked with these organizations to gather spaces for his curated group of artists to tell a story about the issue. Ranging from murals to installations to sculptures, each piece highlights a different victim of the issue.

YAS        Isaac Cordal in North Sumatra | Photo by Isaac Cordal

Ultimately, Zacherevic’s desire for “Slash and Burn” is to educate worldwide consumers on the direct connection they have with this corrupt industry. From food to cosmetics, palm oil can be found in countless products. Consciously buying products derived from conflict-free palm oil can drive down the consumer demand and make a bold statement about popular palm oil farming practices.

More info about Zacherevic and “Splash and Burn” can be found at: http://www.ernestzacharevic.com/splash-and-burn-2/

To learn more about the illegal palm oil industry and what you can do to stop it, head to:  http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/

Support the displaced Orangutans:                                                                             http://orangutancentre.org/