In 2019, as part of John Dyer's Last Chance to Paint global art project, the Born Free Foundation and explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, worked with John Dyer to put together a unique art expedition 'Person of the Forest' to explore and paint the rainforest of Borneo, to meet the Penan tribe and to travel deep into protected rainforest areas to live alongside and paint orangutans with the Orangutan Foundation.
You can read all about the extensive expedition, daily blogs, watch daily videos, see photographs, and listen to tribal Penan music on the Last Chance to Paint Borneo chapter. You might also want to discover John Dyer's art from the Amazon.
The expedition team traveled first to Mulu in Borneo to explore the rainforest, amazing cave systems, to watch the bat exodus and to meet the Penan tribe in two tribal villages; Long Iman and Batu Bungan.
The second part of the expedition saw the team head to the far south of Borneo, where the Orangutan Foundation arranged special government permission for the artist to travel into the protected Lamandau Nature Reserve to live alongside and paint wild and orphaned orangutans.
As John Dyer painted in Borneo the rainforest burnt with the sky thick with smoke and burnt rainforest leaves.
Above: John Dyer painting in the Borneo Rainforest in 2019. Photograph courtesy of Martha-Lilly Dyer.
"We never expected to be on the frontline of climate change, but the situation in Borneo was desperate. The entire time we were in the protected Lamandau reserve we were breathing in smoke, sometimes not too bad, but at other times we needed facemasks. The entire time clumps of burnt rainforest leaves were gently drifting down from the sky that we could catch and they then disintegrated into ash in our hands. The burning was intense, the worst year in history, as farmers took the opportunity to clear as much rainforest as they could in the dry season to establish yet more palm oil plantations. The orangutans are already critically endangered and sadly this could be one of the last chances to paint them in the wild unless something dramatic changes for the better soon."