Destinations

Borneo expedition to return tribal elders to their homeland

Travellers from all over the world have banded together for an inspiring expedition to a tribal village in Borneo.

The diverse group includes a Kiwi photographer, a life coach from Brisbane, a German painter and an Indonesian rock musician. Together they will embark on this extraordinary journey in August, to reunite tribal elders with their ancestral home.

In the 1970s, the Dayaks of Setulang village were forced to abandon their home, and relocate to a remote corner of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), known to the Dayaks as ‘Forbidden Forest’.

 An encounter with the Dayaks in this ‘Forbidden Forest’ led New Zealand born photographer, David Metcalf, and Brisbane life coach, Rex Urwin, to take up the cause of the Dayak tribe, who still live traditional lives with great respect to their environment.

The Dayaks live in fear of the constant damage being done to the rainforest, yet cannot afford the cost of the lengthy journey back up the river to their original village.

After hearing the Dayak’s tale of displacement a year ago, Metcalf and Urwin were inspired to gather a group of Aussie men, and make the expedition to return the Dayaks to their village.

At the same time, the group hope to raise awareness of the dangers faced by the area known as ‘Asia’s Amazon’.

Kalimantan’s rainforest and unique wildlife species, such as the Orangutan, are under growing threat from global warming, deforestation, land clearance for palm oil plantations and mining. Peat swamps that contain vast amounts of carbon are being set alight, adding to the problem of global warming.

“52% of Borneo has been destroyed in just one generation,” said Metcalf.

“This journey back is really about a message of unity, and how critical it is that we start listening to cultures such as the Dayaks who have learned to live in harmony with this environment for thousands of years.”

Embarking on the eight-day journey to bring the Dayaks home is a team of men that includes Canadian film-maker, Jason Houston, who will create a multimedia documentary to highlight the Dayak’s plight, using the unique interactions between a group of artists and musicians, and the tribal elders.

Along with Houston, German-born painter, Wolfgang Widmoser, Indonesian musician, Robi Navicula, and Native American dancer, cultural ambassador and recording artist, Kevin Locke, will also join the poignant journey.

The men are now crowd funding for the $15,000 needed to make the documentary.

“We don’t know exactly what will happen in the future. Will the next generation keep our agreement, or will they damage, open new land or log?” said Dayak elder, Kole Adjang.

“We hope that by this example, our great grandchildren will also take care of our land.”

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