Sustainability Projects in Indonesia

Sustainable Village Project and­
Semah Bumi Festival

Two projects sponsored by documenta fifteen in Jambi on the island of Sumatra demonstrate how research and art can coexist and how this can be leveraged for political aims of sustainability: The Sustainable Village Project and the Semah Bumi Festival.

The Sustainable Village Project takes on a strongly rooted local anchor thanks to collaboration with the Semah Bumi Festival.

Sustainable Village Project, swamp area, Pematang Kabau, Indonesia, 2022, Photo: Immanuel Manurung

Sustainable Village Project

The Sustainable Village Project is a collaboration of the initiative Collaborative Research Center 990: Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems in Sumatra, Indonesia (EFForTS) of Göttingen University, the University in Jambi and documenta fifteen. The project was called into existence to diversify palm oil monocultures using native tree varieties.

As part of this Collaborative Research Center EFForTS over one hundred researchers from Indonesia and Göttingen explore the changing ecological and socioeconomic functions of tropical lowland rainforests. They seek to discover how the inhabitants of Sumatra can use their land more sustainably, promote biodiversity and, at the same time, meet the needs of the local population.

Photo of a forest. Palm trees and tree trunks, on the right a man cutting the nut palm.

Sustainable Village Project, Diversity in land use: betel nut palm grows here as a crop between the rubber trees in a rubber plantation in Jambi province, Indonesia, 2022, Photo: Immanuel Manurung

The village of Pematang Kabau is especially suited to this: while covered many years ago by vast tropical rainforest, today the landscape is cultivated with rubber and palm oil plantations. As a result, the region faces a range of negative ecological impacts such as loss of species or water pollution. The economic benefits of the oil palm booms are not evenly spread.

Semah Bumi Festival

These negative consequences also form the centerpiece of the Semah Bumi Festival: “It links art, science, nature and society,” explains Adhari Donora from the Rumah Budaya Sikukeluang collective who is responsible for the artistic design of the festival.

A digital drawing of the globe in bright green-brown-blue colors.

Semah Bumi Festival of Science, Nature, Society and the Arts, Jambi, Indonesia, 2022

The Semah Bumi Festival was held in the Indonesian village of Pematang Kabau from March 12 to 13, 2022. Concerts, an exhibition, theater performances, workshops and a residency brought artists, researchers and inhabitants together and highlighted different perspectives on the handling of nature that is largely influenced by societal and economic needs.

documenta fifteen, together with the Collaborative Research Center EFForTS at the University of Göttingen and the University in Jambi, Indonesia, is supporting this project for the ecological enrichment of palm oil and rubber plantations in Sumatra. It is one of several long-term sustainability projects designed to combine ecological, economic, artistic and social factors in line with the concept of documenta fifteen. One euro from every documenta fifteen ticket sold benefits this and other sustainability projects.

The results will be presented from June 2022 in an exhibition at Forum Wissen of Göttingen University. In parallel to documenta fifteen interested visitors can experience the social and ecological dimension of the research in Indonesia from a range of perspectives.

A digital drawing, bright green-brown-blue colors

Semah Bumi Festival of Science, Nature, Society and the Arts, Jambi, Indonesia, 2022

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