Since 2014 Tomas Wüthrich has been documenting the everyday life and culture of the Penan as well as the impact of modernity and illegal logging on their way of life.
For generations, the Penan, an indigenous tribe of originally nomadic hunter-gatherers, have lived in the rainforests of Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. They hunt wild animals with blowpipes, fish, gather fruit and harvest sago palms. The way of life of the Penan has changed dramatically since 1950 — missionized by Christians, they founded their first settlements. Since 1970, the corrupt government has been promoting the clearing of the rainforest. The loss of their livelihoods has forced almost all 12,000 Penan to settle and farm. Today, over 90% of the rainforest in Sarawak has been cleared and palm oil plantations are spreading. A few groups have managed to defend their forest — but this paradise is threatened. Again and again the loggers try to invade.
The Penan may live in a world that sounds far away, but the world has become a village. We all buy products containing palm oil. The oldest and most biodiverse rainforest on earth, which also has an influence on our climate, has almost disappeared. In its place the oil palms grow in rows on endless plantations.
The book is designed for the Penan and their rainforest habitat. It’s trilingual, Penan always comes first, and it’s printed on Rockpaper — waterproof and therefore resistant to the rainforest climate. It contains orally transmitted myths of the Penan, collected by the Canadian linguist Ian Mackenzie.
Tomas Wüthrich lives in Liebistorf, Switzerland and works worldwide for editorial- and corporate clients. He grew up on a farm, made an apprenticeship as cabinet maker, worked with mentally handicapped people and began studying social work. In 1999 he attended a degree course for editorial photography at the Swiss School of Journalism, MAZ in Lucerne. Since 2001 he has been working as a freelance photojournalist. Besides this, he pursues his own long-term projects.