Ernest Zacharevic ‘Save our Souls’ Splash and Burn

Once upon a time, a call of S.O.S was considered a desperate call for help, life or death. With todays excessive communication options and general excesses of material wealth (in some countries), the need to call S.O.S, all but no longer exists. This very situation can give even more weight if the call to “Save Our Souls” is made. Rewind to 2017, you may remember a post made about artist Ernest Zacharevic, the artist making the western world aware of the palm oil industry in Indonesia. Zacharevic a Lithuanian artist was creating murals in the context of the “Splash and Burn” awareness campaign in and around the Indonesian city of Sumatra. The focus of the movement was to not only put the realities of the palm oil industry and its destruction to Indonesian rain forests and wildlife on the local agenda, but also to put it on the world radar. Zacharevic realized that street art and the internet was the perfect way to help the locals and educate outsiders that products that they are not even aware they are consuming that have palm oil, are adding to the destruction and possible extinction of many important Indonesian plant and animal life including the local Orangutang.

Ernest Zacharevic 'Save our Souls' Splash and Burn

The project planted a seed in Zacharevic’s mind to create some land art with impact. A cry for help for the Orangutang which is being displaced and wiped out by growing monoculture palm plantations that are feeding the unsuspecting west’s consumption of Palm oil. Inspired by Land art from the 60’s and 70’s, Zacharevic’s dream became reality after negotiating a location for an epic sized “S.O.S.” artwork that most people would only realise existed if they looked from a plane or on Google Maps!

With some exceptional assistance from the natural cosmetics company LUSH, the Orangutang Information Centre (OIC) and The Sumatran Orangutang Society, money was raised by the sale of a LUSH soap which enabled the groups to purchase a 50 Hectare piece of former palm oil plantation land on the edge of the Leuser Ecosytem in Bukit Mas, Sumatra. Using the weight of the former S.O.S calls, Zacharevic came up with the idea to cut these historic letters into the very landscape that is crying for help. No Montana BLACK or Montana GOLD can required here. Just the support of locals and a chain saw wielding crew. From the on the ground the artwork looks like just another palm tree plantation without any other plant or animal life, other than palm trees, from the sky, it’s a giant call for help as the letters “S.O.S”, become readable on an amazingly large scale!

“The nature of my work is very spontaneous and site-specific. I often prioritize the relationship of the artwork to its surrounding environment and community, over the aesthetic pleasure of viewing the art. The Land Art movement of the 60s and 70s has always been an inspiration to me. Just like graffiti, the context and location of Land Art is often as meaningful as its content or artistic expression.

I have had the ambition of creating a Land Art piece since the beginning of the Splash and Burn campaign. I wanted to communicate the magnitude of the problem to a wider audience as well as provide creative outlook, hope, and inspiration to local communities and conservationists.”Splash and Burn Artist and Curator, Ernest Zacharevic

With the old chopped down palm trees serving as fertilizer for the soil, soon an abundance of native trees and shrubs will be planted in an attempt to restore the landscape back to its original health with the aim of making it inhabitable for the Orangutang and other local flora and fauna.

See how Zacharevic is changing the landscape with his natural graffiti here:

“Through months of collaboration with NGO’s and charitable organizations; Orangutan Information Centre, The Sumatran Orangutan Society and LUSH, the involvement of creatives and with the help of local communities; this idea came to life in Bukit Mas. From the ground, you would not suspect anything more than just another palm oil plantation, the aerial view however reveals an SOS distress signal. ‘Save Our Souls’ is a message communicated to those at a distance, a reminder of the connectedness we share with nature. As more of the forests are lost, we lose a little bit of ourselves in the process”Splash and Burn Artist and Curator, Ernest Zacharevic

Images by Ernest Zacharevic, All Is Amazing, Tan Wei Ming Skai