Thai rice farmer makes art with plantings that depict cats

December 19, 2023 - 10:10 AM
A lively cat image created by Thunyapong Jaikum, a thai farmer and artist, is seen in rice fields in Chiang Rai province, north of Thailand, December 16, 2023. (Reuters/Napat Wesshasartar)

 A sleeping cat hugs a fish in a picture seen from the air, picked out in sprouting rainbow seedlings in a rice field in Thailand to illustrate a traditional proverb about abundance.

Farmer Tanyapong Jaikham and a team of workers planted the seedlings at various spots in the field in the northern province of Chiang Rai to depict cartoon cats, hoping to lure tourists and cat lovers.

“We’re expecting tens of thousands to come and see the art in the rice fields,” he said.

The process relies on GPS coordinates to position the seedlings as designated in an initial artist’s sketch, he said, with the plants changing tint as they grow.

“It’s crucial to position them accurately, and the rice will gradually change shades over time,” he added, until in the final harvest stage, the rice straw yields the portrait of Cooper, the cat on which it was modelled.

Viewing towers are being built in the surrounding area to give visitors a glimpse of the artwork, which is based on a Thai saying, “There is fish in the water and rice in the fields.”

The world’s second largest exporter of the grain after India, Thailand aims to ship 8.5 million metric tons this year.

Young people wanting to learn more about the interaction of art and technology could also benefit from visiting the site, Tanyapong said.

“Previously, rice was mainly considered for consumption,” he said. “This approach allows us to develop tourism and agriculture simultaneously.”

— Reporting by Napat Wesshasartar; Writing by Chayut Setboonsarng; Edited by Clarence Fernandez