Lithuanian-born artist Ernest Zacharevic carves a giant SOS distress call into the landscape of an oil palm plantation; calling attention to the ongoing destruction of Indonesia’s forests and wildlife.
The land, which is almost totally devoid of wildlife, is directly next to the Leuser Ecosystem – the only place in the world where orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist. In order to restore the land for wildlife, the charity first needed to remove the oil palm trees. Seizing the opportunity to send a dramatic message, armed with ribbons, a drone and a chainsaw wielding crew, Ernest and his team worked across approximately 20 hectares, carving a giant distress call into the landscape of the plantation, by selectively removing oil palms to spell out the letters SOS.
From the ground, you would not suspect anything more than just another palm oil plantation, the aerial view however reveals an SOS distress signal. ‘Save Our Souls’ is a message communicated to those at a distance, a reminder of the connectedness we share with nature. As more of the forests are lost, we lose a little bit of ourselves in the process. The nature of my work is very spontaneous and site-specific. I often prioritize the relationship of the artwork to its surrounding environment and community, over the aesthetic pleasure of viewing the art. The Land Art movement of the 60s and 70s has always been an inspiration to me. ~ Ernest Zacharevic
In early 2017 Ernest curated a series of unique art projects in and around Sumatra as part of Splash and Burn, an artist led initiative using creativity to encourage a wider conversation on unsustainable Palm Oil and its adverse affects on the dwindling wildlife population and the Sumatran landscape.
As the political debate escalates due to recent EU policy restrictions, now more than ever we need to be informed on the issues, encouraging steps towards why sustainability is and should be a common goal.
“The fallen palms will be used as compost to prepare the land for restoration. Our partners, the OIC, with the backing of the local community, will plant tens of thousands of rainforest tree seedlings to return the land to wildlife. We expect to see orangutans and many other species roaming in the new young forest within a couple of years.” says Helen Buckland, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Society.