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Expedition to return Borneo elders to tribal village

May 19, 2014 Travel Deals No Comments Email Email

What do five tribal elders, a kiwi photographer, a life coach from Brisbane, a Native American dancer, a German painter and an Indonesian rock musician have in common? 


They’re just some of the participants in an extraordinary journey that will be taking place this August, deep in the rainforest of Borneo.

An encounter in a remote corner of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) led New Zealand born photographer David Metcalf and Brisbane life coach Rex Urwin to take up the cause of the Dayak tribe, who still live traditional lives based on their veneration for a piece of land known as ‘The Forbidden Forest’.

David and Rex first met the Dayaks of Setulang village a year ago while on an expedition in the rainforest close to the border with Malaysia. They heard the Dayak’s tale of displacement – they moved out of their ancestral home in the 1970s – and their longing to return to their original village upriver.

David and Rex, with a group of Australian men, have pledged to grant the Dayaks their wish, and at the same time raise awareness of the dangers faced by the area known as ‘Asia’s Amazon’. Kalimantan’s rainforest and its unique wildlife species, such as the Orangutan, are under growing threat from global warming, deforestation, land clearance for palm oil plantations and mining.  Peat swamps that contain vast amounts of carbon are being set alight adding to the problem of global warming.

Coming along on the eight-day journey to bring the Dayaks home will be a team of men including Jason Houston, a film-maker from Canada, who will be creating a multimedia documentary to highlight the Dayak’s plight and record the extraordinary interactions between a group of artists and musicians from around the world.

Also making the journey will be Wolfgang Widmoser, a German-born painter, Robi Navicula, leader of one of Indonesia’s best-known grunge bands, and Kevin Locke, a Native American dancer, storyteller, cultural ambassador and recording artist.

The men are now crowdfunding for the $15,000 needed to make the documentary.

David says:

“52% of Borneo has been destroyed in just one generation. Development of palm oil in recent times is turning this beautiful island into a wasteland, devouring all in its path including threatened animals such as the Orangutans, plant life that is some of the most unique on the planet. This journey back is really about a message of unity, and how critical it is that we start listening to cultures such as the Dayaks who have learned to live in harmony with this environment for thousands of years.”

Kole Adjang, one of the elders, says:

“We don’t know exactly what will happen in the future. Will the next generation keep our agreement, or will they damage, open new land or log? Perhaps serve their self interest? We hope that by this example, our great grandchildren will also take care of our land.

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