Street artist VHILS has created a striking mural of the Tapanuli orangutan in Sumatra, which aims to utilise public art to raise awareness of the endangered species’ plight due to the development of a hydropower dam in its last natural habitat.
As the Indonesian government approves the decimation of orangutans and distributes building permits for a hydropower dam, activist and artist VHILS had distributed a barrage of chiseled lines in the likeness of globalisation’s impending victim: the handsome Tapanuli orangutan. VHILS, whose real name is Alexandre Farto, is the newest member of Splash and Burn. He is a renowned visual artist with his textured work thriving on the streets of Sumatra.
VHILS is the 9th artist to participate in Splash and Burn, the environmental campaign that brings awareness and hope to the rainforests of South East Asia, fighting against palm oil plantations and other forms of capitalist expansion.
"The world is not taking the time to consider how to move forward," said VHILS. "There is no effort to reflect on the real impact of decisions. For this project, what I really wanted to do was to give my work in order to bring attention to a situation – to create discussion on an issue. It is the artists who power the cities we live in – who counterbalance the pressures of different issues by creating images on walls. You can start a discussion and bring to the public issues that otherwise would not be there."
Government permits have been issued and access road construction is already underway. With only 800 Tapanuli orangutan left, the development will destroy their existing habitat.
According to Orangutan Information Centre and the Sumatran Orangutan Society, if developed, "[The hydropower dam] will prevent the connection of habitat patches with forest corridors, a priority action to protect the long term viability of the species."
"It comes down to activists and artists to raise awareness for the tensions that globalisation creates," VHILS said. "That being said, I personally think it’s a new Pandora’s box, it’s hard to stop. The only thing we can really do now is act on the dark side of globalisation, which is really the reason we are here doing Splash and Burn."