Yeo Workshop is pleased to present new works by Maryanto(Indonesia) at Art Dubai, Bawwaba, curated by Vipash Purichanont. Expanding on his past research into various areas of exploitation in Indonesia such as volcanic sand mining around Mount Merapi and oil dredging in Wonocolo, East Java, Maryanto continues to bring attention to environmental issues in the country. This time, he sheds light on the rampant development of palm oil plantations in South Kalimantan and the gradual encroachment of its forests as a result. At the same time, he touches on the themes of transmigration, ownership, and capitalism. While Maryanto does not set out to frame his practice as environmental activism, his works can be considered as aspirational: bringing public awareness to issues that he is otherwise not able to change on his own.
From surveying historical accounts to a trip down to South Kalimantan and interacting with the locals there, Maryanto traces how the region fell prey to palm oil and mining industries since the 1970s, leaving indigenous tribes battling to claim autonomy over their land and protect these forests in present-day. The indigenous community in Kalimantan depend on the forests for their livelihoods, including harvesting essential ingredients for medicine and traditional rituals. Yet the growth of palm oil industries leading to unrestrained deforestation has disrupted much of their customs and ways of living. For instance, a traditional ceremony called Belian is performed for the purpose of healing the village, honouring ancestors, and seeking blessings for the environment. Lasting from one to six days, it involves collecting 100 types of plants, leaves, and roots from the forests as offerings, which is becoming increasingly difficult to assemble as forests are cleared.
These deeply urgent yet often unreported environmental concerns are brought to bear in Maryanto's black and white paintings. In which, he undermines the romantic language of traditional landscape painting to examine socio-political structures in the physical spaces that he depicts. They act as a subversive reference on historical books published during the colonial period, where the Dutch Indies had used the natural landscapes to promote the beauty of Indonesia as propaganda. Beyond his monochromatic paintings, Maryanto also taps on other mediums in this presentation to convey the unbridled impingement of the natural environment in the region. Palm Oil District (2023) comprises 11 embroidered crests that bring attention to the provinces in South Kalimantan that were once revered for its lush landscapes but have now been taken over by palm oil plantations. Featuring the original emblems with motifs often symbolising prosperity and environmental protection, the work recalls an ideology that now feels distant.
This solo presentation acknowledges the sobering reality of South Kalimantan's depleting forests and uncovers stories of unspoken truths within these deeply political spaces. Underpinning these works is a profound understanding of the ongoing struggle of these indigenous people to protect their ancestral lands, which not only means protecting the environment, but also preserving the traditions of customs of indigenous culture. Maryanto's works can be considered as an archive that reflects the history of these landscapes through time – once idyllic spaces that have been corrupted by systems of power – while protesting its imminent future.
📍BAWWABA "AGAINST DISAPPEARANCE" | HALL 3 | BOOTH G10
By invitation only: 1-2 Mar, 2-9pm
Public days: 3-4 Mar, 2-9pm; 5 Mar, 12-6pm
Address: Madinat Jumeirah Conference & Events Centre, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud St, Al Sufouh 1, Dubai
For more information, visit the Art Dubai website.