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Cook Islands/Māori photographer Alex King points her lens at the Palm Oil Industry in Indonesia

Photographer Alex King and her daughter Zulay. Photo: Supplied

Award-winning Cook Islands Māori photographer Alex King is showcasing her first exhibition in the Cook Islands this Friday, called ‘SUMATRA: The Last Place on Earth’. 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 Māori/Polynesian woman to tell these stories, build and change the perspective and correct the narrative.

“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.”

Guardians of the forest by Alex King Photography.

CEO and Director of Photographers Without Borders, Danielle Da Silva, says “I am so proud to see Alex be a storyteller for change. Alex came on our Sumatra Storytelling School this year to support the work of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) and Nature for Change (NFC).”

A portion of King’s proceeds with go towards the OIC and grassroots organization NFC. Both NGOs have been at the fore of reclaiming over 2000 hectares of illegal palm oil in Indonesia, educating communities, creating scholarship programs, conducting Orangutan rescue missions, and prosecuting forest and wildlife criminal cases.

Sumatra is the only place in the world where you’ll find endangered Sumatran elephant, tiger, rhino and orangutan living altogether. The Sumatran orangutan is a critically endangered species due to trafficking, human-orangutan conflict, poaching and illegal expansion of palm oil plantations. These such activities have destroyed more than 50% of what was left 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 first hand, 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.”

“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.”

“SUMATRA: The Last Place on Earth” is on for one night only this coming Friday 6th November 2020 at Antipodes Restaurant Rarotonga, commencing at 5:30pm. Tickets can be purchased by emailing [email protected] or by phoning Amy Kainuku (+682 58489).


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