On the Natinggir Forest Indigenous Community's struggle to preserve their ancestral lands.

Featuring works by Kaleb Sitompul (Indonesia)
Recipient of the Objectifs Documentary Award 2023, Emerging Category
Mentored by Ng Swan Ti

18 May to 16 Jun 2024
Lower Gallery 1, Objectifs
Free admission

Opening | 18 May 2024, 12pm – 7pm

Artist Talk with Kaleb Sitompul and Ng Swan Ti | 18 May 2024, 1pm – 2pm (Register here)

The Opung Raja Nasomalomarhohos Pasaribu (Natinggir Forest Indigenous Community) is a Batak tribe that has resided in the highlands of Toba in North Sumatra, Indonesia, for over 300 years. They are one of the area’s oldest indigenous residents. The tribe has a deep spiritual and emotional connection to the land from years of living in and managing the forest, with the frankincense tree occupying a special place in their folklore and beliefs. Aside for using the land for farming and gathering, they harvest the fragrant resin of frankincense trees, a practice that has been in place for generations.

The tribe’s ancestral lands have slowly been encroached upon by eucalyptus plantations established by a major company that pulps eucalyptus trees for industrial purposes. These plantations have turned a vibrant ecosystem into a monoculture; the frankincense trees that used to grow plentifully are disappearing and the land has been left bereft, threatening the tribe’s traditional livelihoods and practices.

Over the years, the tribe have resisted the actions of the tree pulp company, negotiating with company executives and government officials, and recovering and restoring occupied land by building new homes and growing agricultural and native plants. Today, about 20 families are engaged in the ongoing land tussle between the tribe and commercial interests.

Heading their efforts is Sahala, a community leader who is working to build solidarity and resilience amongst the other indigenous tribes in the area facing similar issues. The voices of the tribe’s women also feature strongly in its interactions and negotiations, an unusual practice in a traditionally patriarchal community. Their goal in the short term is to secure a customary land decree from the government; in the long term, they hope to protect and preserve these lands for generations to come.

About the artist

Kaleb Sitompul is a visual storyteller who works in film and photography, and is based in Indonesia. In 2016, he attended the Jakarta Institute of Arts in Film Studies, where he studied filmmaking and photography. He further developed his photography skills over a year-long mentorship with Pannafoto Institute in 2022. Since 2021, Kaleb has focused on exploring stories and issues in North Sumatra. He is the co-founder of Sekelakfoto and kinocolony, which are alternative photography and film communities in Medan.

About the Mentor

Ng Swan Ti, Managing Director of PannaFoto Institute, started her career as a photographer in 2000. Recently, she has been involved in various photography initiatives as co-curator Vision 20/20: Community exhibition (Jakopič Gallery, 2020), Erratic Dream (PhMuseum, 2021), Tracing Inherited History (Hong Kong International Photo Festival, 2021), Space (Jakarta International Photo Festival, 2021), Revival (Jakarta International Photo Festival, 2022). She also served on the World Press Photo selection committees for the Joop Swart Masterclass (2016) and one of the mentors for Women Photograph Mentorship Class (2022).

Presented by Objectifs
Supported by Cultural Matching Fund

Related events:
Artist Talk with Choulay Mech and Roger Nelson | Sat 18 May 2024, 2.30pm – 3.30pm (Register here)
Artist Talk with Lê Nguyên Phương and Dan Tran | Sat 18 May 2024, 4pm – 5pm (Register here)