Friday, 14 May 2010

Elephantoms… or going on an Elephant Hunt? – Dianne Hofmeyr

This week the streets of London have been full of surprises – parades of Prime Ministers and Parades of Elephants. It’s all been a little surreal. Are you hunting them and how many have you spotted? (elephants… not Prime Ministers, even if you include Nick underscore Clegg). The Elephant Parade is the biggest outdoor art installation yet seen in the capital. There are 258 of them. (spot Albert riding in his howdah)
Boris Johnson says: 'Bring on the elephants! Elephant Parade is a brilliantly innovative way of using public art to benefit conservation. Not only will the parade brighten London’s streets and enhance our public spaces, it will play a vital role in building a new generation of conservationists.'

And Goldie Hawn says: 'Anyone who loves elephants, and I do, will love Elephant Parade. It is not only the most beautiful, colourful and fun campaign, it also holds the key to saving the majestic species from extinction. What a magical adventure with a real purpose.'

I can’t help thinking that the organisers missed a beat though. Where is David McKee’s Elmer or where are Lauren Child’s elephants? I would have clamoured to carry off a prize like one of them from the auction that will take place to raise funds to help the conservation of the Asian elephant, whose numbers have fallen by 90% in a hundred years. I love Lauren Child’s elephants (and her pink-milk-drinking tigers too). So shame on the organisers for not considering even ONE childrens’ illustrator as a good option… or have I missed an elephant somewhere amongst the 258?

What is it about elephants? They’re cropping up in ABBA titles too. My real love is the statuesque African elephant. My Desktop image is a photograph I took of an elephant walking through an ancient ebony forest in Zambia. Unlike the Elephant Parade this elephant looks just as elephants should… totally remote and yet totally at ease with its environment.

I grew up with a row of carved black ones that walked across my bedroom window ledge from large to small. And I wish I still had that tiny, ‘smaller than a baby’s fingernail’ elephant carved from vegetable ivory that fitted into a hollowed-out red lucky bean seed that was bought at a rail-siding in Palapye when Botswana was still pink on the world map and called the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

My Desktop elephant has been with me for over a year now. But I’m not hunting for a replacement. To remove him would be like killing off a well-loved character in a novel. Right now he’s staying, not even to be replaced by a pink Lauren Child elephantom. what do you put up on your Desktop for inspiration when firing up your laptop every morning? Any favourite elephant pics or stories out there? One of mine is The Elephant's Pillow by Jude Daly.
(I spent yesterday at a social media event called Being Social run by mashup* and apparently no blog should be longer than 300 words… so have failed horribly!)


gringomutti said...

How entrancing! I wish I was in London right now. Elephants are wonderful but there are none in Joburg that I can see.

francesann said...

Babar was my favourite elephant when I was a child, and then later on when I read to my own children. How I loved that French department store. And what was a Floorwalker?

But then desperately sad when Babar's mother was killed!

Penny Dolan said...

I was down in London last weekend and saw some of the groups of artistic elephants too. Some were a little too cute in design to my eyes, but they obviously gave people of all ages lots of enjoyment and delight.

I only hope these painted elephants helped pass on the message about the environmental pressures on the Asian elephant to the happy elephant viewers, patters, strokers and posers-for-photos while thye met the brighty coloured sculptures.

Diane, loved your own magnificent elephant in its big glade of trees. But I realised when researching my The Third Elephant book that most screen & tv "save the elephant" programmes feature the larger African elephant. The Asian elephant appears on screen rarely, but their habitats are being eroded all the same. In addition, the huge cost of keeping "wedding & festival" elephants (often owned by a consortium)means that in hard times the ever-hungry elephants suddenly become uneconomic and therefore disposable. Enough gloom.

This was another great post and the pictures delightful.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes.. Barbar was a favourite of mine too. Penny I didn't know about'wedding and festival' elephants owned by consortiums and rented out like stretch limo's. Its too awful.
And yes agreed generally the elephants on show in London are too 'disney'. Horrible cartoon-like eyes that are part of the casting and elephants painted to look like pandas and ladybugs are just silly. They detract rather than enhance the integrity of the animal... (and therefore the cause too) Generally with childrens' illustration, the integrity of the beast is never compromised. One sees this so brilliantly in Jude's illustration.

Katherine Langrish said...

My grandmother, who was born in India, had a series of elephants - in ebony, ivory, and teak elephants in varying sizes! I used to count them ... can't remember the number now.

Penny Dolan said...

The proportions & perspectives of Jude's illustration are magical, Dianne - almost a hint of those painted Indian miniatures about it.

I'd been partly inspired in my story by the carved families of diminishing elephants that you describe Kath, but somehow "the thirteenth elephant" seemed a far too complex an array of characters. Pity.

Hope someday we'll hear more about mashup too - the event looks as though it was interesting - if elephant-less.

Anonymous said...


adele said...

I love the Elephant Parade and saw and photographed two of them when outside the V &A last week. Also saw the one near Harrods when I caught my bus to South Ken. I adore elephants and my husband has a collection of several hundred of the creatures...small ones, I hasten to add. But London is copying our wonderful COWS parade in Manchester a few years ago. Liverpool tried the Lambanana but our cows were terrific. They were all sold at the end of the year, as these elephants will be too. I'm now going to look at the link to the whole parade. Lovely post, Dianne.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

You were at the V&A Adele and caught a bus to South Ken... I live almost within the shadow of the V&A... we could've talked books! Will pass on your comments to Jude, Penny. You're right it is magical!

Ms. Yingling said...

And here in Columbus, Ohio, USA, we just have statues of cows. We don't have nearly the impressive backdrop that you have!