The Last Penan in the Borneo Rainforest
A manifesto against politics and business interests that endanger the Penan culture on Borneo
1st edition, 2019
Text English / German / Penan
160 pages, 100 color illustrations
22 x 30 cm
Over many years, Swiss photographer Tomas Wüthrich has visited Borneo many times to document the daily life of the Penan, a partially nomadic indigenous people living in the rainforest of Borneo. The way of life that these hunter-gatherers lead in the Sarawak state of Malaysia is critically threatened by illegal logging and oil palm plantations.
The Penan people came to the world’s attention thanks to Swiss-born environmental activist Bruno Manser, who disappeared in the jungle without trace in the year 2000 while campaigning for the Penan cause. In this book, Wüthrich paints a nuanced portrait of this unique culture. The book is printed on moisture-resistant paper made from limestone so that it will be durable in the Borneo rainforest. For its production of Rockpaper no tree was felled and no drinking water consumed.
A selection of Penan myths, collected by Ian B.G. Mackenzie are published for the first time alongside Wüthirch’s photographs. An essay on Bruno Manser and his mission for the Penans’ case completes the book.
"The expressive pictures and the report are respectful and have nothing in common with an exhibition of allegedly "exotic", "wild" way of life, as is usual in many ethnological projects." Michael Lausberg, scharf links
"A fascinating illustrated book, which comes very close to the hunter-gatherers, supplemented by myths first told in a book." Zeitlupe
"In the end, the impression remains that Wüthrich also wants to make the world a little bit better. That he takes photos for a good cause. Or just to show what's real." Valerie Zaslawski, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
"Wüthrich shows the Penan from the perspective of a participating observer, he doesn't elevate them to people who know how the primordial life, the supposed "real life" goes." Xymna Angel, Der Bund
"The alternation of large formats, wide panoramas and exact close-ups draws us into the book. Even a little further. What might it be like there, when the sun breaks through and the veils of mist in the forest dissolve, the animals call and engines roar not so far away?" René Wüthrich, Berner Zeitung
"The book has been designed with the Penan in mind: it is printed on moisture-resistant paper made from limestone so that it will be durable in the Borneo rainforest. What’s more to create Rockpaper no tree was felled and no drinking water consumed—offering a vital lesson in the use of technology to us all. Doomed Paradise is a stunning portrait of the people and their disappearing way of life that takes great measures to bring together a small community with a world it would never otherwise meet.” Miss Rosen, feature shoot
“This fascinating glimpse into a past whose struggles continue into the present is a real treasure. As a peek into a world our own ancestors might have experienced similarly thousands of years ago, it is absolutely fascinating to view and read, a highly recommended experience!” Gerhard Clausing, photobookjournal.com