Sumatra: The last place on Earth

Monday 2 November 2020 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Art, Features


Sumatra: The last place on Earth
Guardians of the forest by Alex King Photography. 20110108

A local photographer hopes to bring Cook Islanders closer to an experience that will open their eyes to what many describe as one of world’s worst industries; the palm oil industry in Indonesia.

Award-winning photographer and entrepreneur, Alex King, is showcasing her exhibition ‘SUMATRA: The Last Place on Earth’ this Friday at Antipodes Restaurant Rarotonga.

Commencing at 5.30pm, the photography exhibition will take viewers on a provocative and controversial journey through one of the world’s worst industries; the palm oil industry in Indonesia. The event will include traditional Indonesian performances back dropped against King’s beautiful and through-provoking photographs.

Earlier this year, King travelled to Sumatra, Indonesia, with Photographers Without Borders (PWB) to document the detrimental effects of the industry.

“I witnessed some harsh realities”, says King, “I’ve always been really passionate about the connection between indigenous people, nature and wildlife, and there are so many issues around the world that involve irreparable damage to all three of these.”

“I believe it is my duty as an indigenous Maori/Polynesian woman to tell these stories, build and change the perspective and correct the narrative. I was moved by everything I encountered on my trip to Sumatra in February this year, and have since been wanting to help the cause in the best way I can. I want people to see this, and bring them closer to an experience that will open their eyes, educate and open a space for further questions about this damaging industry.”

A portion of King’s proceeds will go towards the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) and grassroots organisation Nature For Change. Both are NGOs that have been at the fore of reclaiming over 2000 hectares of illegal palm oil in Indonesia, educating communities, creating scholarship programmes, conducting Orangutan rescue missions, and prosecuting forest and wildlife criminal cases.

At King’s exhibition there will be a silent auction of one of the prints with the funds going back to the NGOs as well as a portion of the ticket sales.

CEO and Director of Photographers Without Borders, says “I am so proud to see Alex take Photographers Without Borders storytelling for change and advocating these stories on the other side of the world. We took Alex on our PWB Sumatra School this year to support the work of our good friends in Indonesia. The Sumatran Orangutan is a critically endangered species due to human encroachment, poaching and illegal expansion of palm oil plantations. Through forest restoration projects, the Orangutan Information Centre is working with local communities to restore the degraded environment and protect orangutan populations. Palm Oil and other plantations have been illegally expanding into Nation Parkland in Sumatra for years. These activities have destroyed 50% of the rainforest in the last 50 years, taking 50% of the already critically-endangered wildlife with it.”

Representative for the Indonesian community in the Cook Islands, and supporter of Alex King’s exhibition, Resti Burgess says, “I am from Sumatra, I have seen the impacts firsthand that’s why I, and our Indonesian Community, support Alex’s cause. Our performance rehearsals and preparation also have provided a timely refuge from the stress of Covid-19 for our community. We are thankful and proud to be able to showcase our culture to the local community here and to draw attention to an issue that must be


“Supporting Alex has helped us reconnect to our roots and helped us to feel accepted in a place far away from our home. During the process, what we have learned is that the Cook Islands and Indonesia have so much in common: a deep love and respect for our culture and traditions as well as an understanding of how to live with and from nature. I hope this exhibition serves as a reminder of how important it is for all of us to work together to protect mother earth.”

Amy Kainuku, director of Kia Orana Collective, said: “The exhibition with Alex King’s stunning photographs and the moving traditional Indonesian performances will beautifully reflect the delicacy, beauty and pain of this topic.”

“KOCo is supporting Alex because not only do we believe in her strength and determination as an entrepreneur but also in her values and message. She is shining a light into a corner of the world that is often overlooked. Many do not realise that most of the products we purchase contain palm oil. This is Alex’s first exhibition in the Cook Islands and we are very proud to be supporting her work, her cause and her future.”

The exhibition is one night only and is not to be missed. King’s work is guided by her desire to create positive change in the world, to bring together cultures, perspectives and communities by drawing attention to an issue that affects us all.

Tickets can be purchased by emailing or by phoning Amy Kainuku (+682 58489).

Alex King extends a heartfelt thank you to her mentor; Danielle Da Silva from Photographers Without Borders, to her nominated NGO’s: Orangutan Information Centre and Nature for Change. She also extends her utmost gratitude to her sponsors and supporters: Kia Orana Collective, The Bond Store, Coco House Bros, Rehab Rarotonga, Pacific Resort Hotel Group, Motone Productions, Fave Designs, Woven Communications, Charlies Beachside Café, 88fm, Go Local Cook Islands, Koteka Electricals, Cook Islands Business Professional Women’s Association, Ani Thompson, Claire Wilson, John Young, Anna Glassie, Erin Mitchell, Serena and Conrad Hunter, Gaye and John Whitta, her Mum & Dad; Wayne and Anne King, Teariki Allsworth, Resti Burgess and the Indonesian Community.