For the last 31 years, photojournalist and photographer Jimmy Nelson has travelled across countries to take portraits of tribal and indigenous people. With his sound purpose to raise awareness about the world’s indigenous cultures, he creates aesthetic visual imagery as a reminder of the drastic homogenizing forces of a globalising world.
In his book Before They Passed Away, published in 2013 by TeNeues, Nelson took a five-year-journey across Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the South Pacific during which he visited 35 indigenous communities. Using a 50-year-old 5 x 4 inch camera, he photographed and documented their lives, bridging the cultural barriers of two completely different worlds. Nelson’s photographs have taken the world by storm, with exhibitions held in major cities like London, New York, Paris and Shanghai.
For the past 20 years, photographer and botanist Chien C. Lee has engaged in wildlife photography in Borneo. He aims to inspire a deeper understanding and respect for mother nature.
His photos are inspired by the intricate interactions and adaptations of the rainforest organisms that showcase the wondrous complexity of the ecosystems. From close-ups of rare insects, to landscapes of Borneo’s breathtaking scenery, Chien C. Lee offers a new and unique perspective on nature.
His photographs have appeared in numerous articles and books, some of which are A Walk Through the Lowland Rainforest of Sabah, Visions of Mulu, Pitcher Plants of Sarawak, and The Fishes of Kuching Rivers.
Perhaps the greatest pioneer photographer of Sarawak, K.F. Wong (Wong Ken Foo) is known for his early records of the tribes of Sarawak, capturing the brilliant diversity of the region and its people using a Rolleiflex. Born in Sarawak, Wong would often travel into the depths of Sarawak, meeting and staying with the Dayaks in their longhouses whilst observing their mode of living with respect and affection.
No modern day camera or technology can recapture the essence of the past. In Wong’s photographs, he achieved much more than scintillating portraits of beauty, for he succeeded in capturing much of the essential traditional atmosphere of their lives.
One of the standout exhibitions at the Festival, don’t miss out on Wong’s superb visual renderings of individuals from Sarawak’s remote communities.
Raphael Scott Ahbeng is one of Borneo’s most established artists. Born in 1939, the master of Sarawak’s natural landscapes is known for his hues of blistering red.
His paintings have been held in the permanent collection of public institutions and private collectors in Malaysia and the surrounding region. Many of his artworks have been successfully auctioned internationally, an achievement that impels him to make new discoveries and experiment with different styles.
Alena Murang is one of a kind: she is an artist, a musician, and a dancer with a social and cultural mission to preserve Borneo’s heritage.
While she brings a rather unconventional music instrument onto the world stage – the sape, Murang is also a visual artist. Most of her artworks reflect nature and the people she encountered growing up in Sarawak. With a promise to use art as a medium for environmental change and social justice, Murang founded Art4 where she works with corporations and governmental bodies to invest into projects focused on supporting traditional craft-making, traditional music, and art education.
An artist, educator, and researcher, Kendy Mitot is an artist of the indigenous Bidayuh tribe of Sarawak. Mitot researches areas that include topics related to the traditional arts and culture of the indigenous population, especially the Bidayuh people in Sarawak.
He shows interest in art innovation: media experimentation, and art theory and practices. Mitot’s artworks reflect the Borneo indigenous people, especially through myths, symbols, and ritual ceremonies. Mitot has been the recipient of several awards and has held numerous exhibitions within Malaysia.
Back in 1955, the curator of the Sarawak Museum, Tom Harisson, brought six highly talented Berawan individuals from the Longhouse of Long Jegan located near the banks of the Tinjar River to Kuching. He commissioned the men to paint panels for the ceiling of the Court House, providing them full freedom in expressing their skills and creativity.
They created traditional painting motifs, motifs used in carvings, and original interpretations of plants and animals in the wild. Today, only 40 panels remain, many of them badly damaged. This exhibition will feature high quality prints of a selection from the remaining panels.
The Sacred Journey showcases the remarkable silk ikat cloths produced by the Iban women weavers of Rumah Garie in Sarawak.
The weavers practise a time-consuming tie-and-dye resist technique using natural ingredients to produce ceremonial blankets of exquisite beauty, and other contemporary products such as shawls and tailored clothes. Beyond displaying the finest examples of pua kumbu, this exhibition highlights both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Iban people.
Making use of multimedia and interactive methods such as weaving looms, films, lectures and storyboards, this show captures the different stages of yarn and dye preparation and weaving techniques through in-gallery demonstrations. Folklore animations, stories, ritual and symbolism behind the vocabulary of pua kumbu motifs will also be presented.
This whimsical, kaleidoscopic evergreen wonderland promises to fulfil a multi-sensory art experience like no other. An immersive and joyous encounter that is akin to stepping into the womb of nature, filled with wonder and colour.
Who is Spencer Byles? Utilising the rainforest as his canvas, Spencer Byles creates installations that are exquisite, yet temporary. Visiting his outdoor exhibition is a must if you would like to witness his natural sculptures.