Shadow Puppets Act Out for Sumatra: An Introduction to Ecology and the Power of Creative Expression 

This project is based on my deep fascination with Indonesian shadow puppets, as well as my concern for Indonesian Ecology.  The project is designed to increase students empathy and understanding of Ecology in the Indonesian Rainforest of Sumatra, and in particular, one of today’s most critical environmental concerns: it’s deforestation.

The Rainforest

Indonesia has the third largest area of rainforests in the world.  Indonesia is made up of more than 17,500 islands, but the majority of its rainforest is found on just four: Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, and New Guinea. Indonesia has more species than any other country on Earth. In this project we focus on the rainforest of Sumatra, the western-most of Indonesia's large islands. It is the only place in the world that has tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants and hornbills all living together in the wild.

The Crisis

Sumatra's rainforests are highly endangered and are disappearing faster than forests in any other part of Indonesia. About 40 percent of forests in Sumatra were chopped down between 1990 and 2005.  Logging for building and paper-making has long been a major cause of forest loss in Indonesia.  Large areas of rainforest have been cut down and replaced with oil palm, a type of tree that produces a fruit used to make cheap, unhealthy oil.

What can WE do?

In this project we explore meaningful contribution in four steps:

Step 1: Explore and understand the geography of Indonesia and the species that live in the Sumatran Rainforest through play with light and shadow.

Step 2: Explore and understand the rainforest species and their relationship to their habitat through observational drawing: line and shape.

Step 3: Explore and understand the ecological issue facing the Sumatran Rainforest habitat through mapping and graphing.

Step 4: Explore and understand ways that individuals can have a positive impact on the ecology of the Sumatran Rainforest by sharing their artwork and ideas.  

The Exhibition

After the final puppet show has been recorded and edited I will create a special website for participants to access with their friends and family.  There they can view the film, and find resources to carry the project further in their own life.


Workshops are available for children and/or adults, and will be tailored to fit your community.  The maximum group size per session is 20. I work with local organizations, and am equally comfortable in classroom, gallery, studio or community center locations.   If you are interested, contact me and I will provide a project proposal for your site including time, space and projected costs.