One of my local parks is the Westerpark and on my frequent cycle rides through it, I couldn’t help noticing a rather large and imposing sculpture. So last week I got off my trusty iron steed and took a few pictures of the poignantly named, ‘Weeping Elephant.’ It was created by artist, Jantien Mook. Mook’s mission statement;
“The Weeping Elephant’, is a sculpture of an African elephant five meters high. She will travel around the world and appear in cities, she ‘weeps’ to make her presence felt. On her journey she want to join forces during events; conservation, art & culture related, with experts, enthusiasts and artists to bring an ode to the wild. The stage under the sculpture is a meeting point for special guests; speakers, musicians, dancers and children to share their message with the world.
I’m looking for partners who are able and willing to help ‘The Weeping Elephant’ on her journey. Please contact me; here”
Elephants and Sadness
Elephants are often portrayed as sad animals. Think of those in literature; Dumbo,who is separated from his mother at an early age; Rosie, the abused circus elephant in Sara Gruen’s fantastic book, Water for Elephants which when made into a film sparked a real-life animal abuse storm about the elephant who played Rosie, Tai. Controversy erupted around concerns that Tai was mistreated prior to filming, Water for Elephants. A video released by the Animal Defenders International (ADI) in 2011 shows footage of Tai allegedly being shocked with handheld stun guns and beaten around the body and legs with bull hooks, while in the care of Have Trunk Will Travel in 2005. The ADI contacted the American Humane Association, urging them to re-evaluate how they assess the use of animals in films and the statements being made which effectively endorse the use of performing animals.
Wills Gets Involved
Not only do elephants suffer for our entertainment, in the wild they are threatened by ivory poachers. Recently elephants have had Prince William fighting their corner. Although his message isn’t very hopeful, perhaps it will make some groups think more about where their supply of ivory comes from;
“When I was born, there were one million elephants roaming Africa.
And at the current pace of illegal poaching, when Charlotte turns 25 the African elephant will be gone from the wild.”
Thankfully we can console ourselves with the more uplifting story by Michael Morpurgo based on a real-life incident of an elephant rescuing a British child from the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. It was dramatised in London by the same puppet theatre that made War Horse. Here pictures of Ning Nong and the little girl he saved, Amber Own who is now in her twenties, and below Ning Nong’s puppet actor in the play, ‘Running Wild.’
So what is it about these pachyderms that invokes this deep-rooted sense of guilt about the way we treat the natural world? Is it their very strong family bonds which we identify with, or perhaps their immense strength and gentleness combined? Why not go to the Westerpark and think about it? Perhaps you will be moved to write a poem, draw a picture or make a donation to the WWF. Don’t wait too long though because at the end of April, Weeping Elephant’s packing her trunk and moving onto pastures new.