Artist Statement

Orangutans are one of our closest and most enigmatic cousins. The name "orangutan" literally means "Person of the Forest" and was derived from an aboriginal belief that they were humans hiding in the forest to avoid working or becoming a slave. However, now they've become slaves to our consumerism.

Palm oil is found in one of every ten household products, from margarine and bread to lipstick and soap, and is consumed by over a billion people across the world. It is also what's driving the orangutan, a species with whom we share roughly 97% of our genes, to extinction. Palm oil plantations are taking over the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, the orangutan's only home, in an effort to meet global demands for the foods and products containing the ingredient. Palm oil can easily be replaced with other forms of vegetable oil but it isn't because it is cheap to grow and companies earn a profit from the rainforest timber the plantations replace. Palm oil is predicted to be the world's most produced, consumed, and internationally traded edible oil.

Orangutans, currently listed as “critically endangered”, are facing extinction at a remarkable rate because of the extent of habitat that has now disappeared; man and the palm oil industry remain the biggest threat to what is left of the orangutan population and their home.

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Get the Facts

The origin of the word “orangutan” is derived from the Indonesian and Malaysian words for “person” (orang) and “forest” (hutan). Literally it means “Person of the Forest”.

Humans and the palm oil industry is the biggest threat to the orangutan and the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Palm oil is found in thousands of popular products, including ice cream, chocolate, cookies, candy, cereal, milk, butter, toothpaste, soap, hair products, and cosmetics

Sprawling oil palm farms replace the rich rainforest ecosystem with biological desert.

Animal populations shrink because the remaining forest cannot support all the refugee animals in addition to normal populations already there.

When shrinking habitats push stressed orangutans nearer to human settlements, they raid oil palm plantations and get trapped or shot.

Tropical rainforests are home to 70% of the Earth’s species of plants and animals, and the plight of the orangutan is a barometer for the health of the rainforests of Southeast Asia as a whole.

The Installation

See photos of the artwork in its various locations


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