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Balancing tradition and protest in Borneo

Members of Pangrok Sulap and friends with a print made for the Rhythms of Rimba conservation festival in 2014 (Photo by Tom Vater)

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia -- Rizo Leong, a 31-year-old Malaysian artist, recalls how members of Marjinal, a Jakarta punk rock band and art collective, taught him the basics of woodblock printing while they were on tour in Sabah, part of Malaysian Borneo, in 2013. "They inspired me and my friends to form an art collective. It was great to suddenly realize what we could do if we mastered this technique," he said.

     Leong is one of the founders of a Borneo art collective called Pangrok Sulap. He and his wife Memet have transformed their home, a former school in the sleepy mountain village of Ranau, into an open plan studio. The mainly agricultural community attracts tourists because of its proximity to Mount Kinabalu, one of Southeast Asia's highest peaks, which is a popular trekking spot. But Pangrok Sulap provides an incongruous and colorful exception to the rural setting, serving as a dedicated space for the region's artists.

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