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Jumbo welcome: 101 elephant sculptures to greet Mumbai, promote conservation

The art installations are part of the Elephant Parade India. They will also be auctioned online to raise funds to build elephant corridors across the country.

mumbai Updated: Feb 27, 2018 19:39 IST
Prakruti Maniar
Prakruti Maniar
Hindustan Times
Christened Kali-doscope, the sculpture by designer-duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, is made with over 100,000 mirrors.(Elephant Family)
Elephant Parade India
  • March 3 - March 6 - Worli Seaface, Priyadarshini Park, Palladium mall Lower Parel, Siddhivinayak Temple, Mantralaya, Jindal Mansion Peddar road, Sophia’s college Breach Candy
  • March 8-11 – R City mall Ghatkopar, Phoenix Market City Kurla, Grand Hyatt – Vakola, JSW Centre office Bandra Kurla Complex
  • March 14-18 – Carter Road beach and amphitheatre, Bandra Fort lawns and promenade, Infiniti malls Malad & Andheri, Oberoi mall, Taj Land’s End Bandra, Bombay Art Society, Bandra

On Sunday, 101 elephants will gather at the Gateway of India. They’re no ordinary animals – one is made entirely of bronze, some are covered in gold and the rest are fiberglass models decorated with butterfly motifs, folk art, fold lettering, or flowers inspired by children’s books.

Starting March 3, the elephants will be herded to public spots across Mumbai. Unlike most art, you can touch them, hug them, and donate to protecting real elephants across Asia.

This sculpture by designer Vikram Goyal is made entirely of bronze and is titled Savitri. (Elephant Family)

The sculptures are part of the India edition of Elephant Parade, an 11-year-old initiative. Each work is designed and painted by a different artist, and will eventually be auctioned to raise money to build 101 elephant corridors (secure passages for the animals to pass) across India.

For art lovers, it’s a treat. The gentle grey animal is an interesting canvas. Art consultant Farah Siddiqui has roped in big and lesser-known names in art, design and fashion. Fashion designer Masaba Gupta, artist LN Tallur, Bhil artist Lado Bai and actor Amitabh Bachchan are among the creators.

Fashion designer Masaba Gupta’s sculpture is titled Amani. (Anya Claxton for Elephant Family)

Designer-duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla’s elephant is covered in mirrors. “Their placement reveals our multifaceted selves, like the goddess Kali,” says Sandeep Khosla. Each sculpture also has a name – this one is christened Kali-doscope.

“Everyone has an elephant story, of feeding them, or of them walking on the road,” says Ruth Ganesh, trustee of Elephant Family, the UK non-profit hosting this edition. As the elephants tour Mumbai, you can bid on any one of the 101 elephants on Their prices start from Rs 3-5 lakh, and the bidding will be open from March 3-22. “We hope that by leaving the artwork for the public to play with, they will connect to the cause of elephant protection.”

Airavat, the elephant sculpture by designer Tarun Tahiliani, at a preview show in Jaipur last year. (Tarun Tahiliani)

Elephant Parade has been held 24 times in locations as varied as Netherlands, Hong Kong and London, with anything from 50 to 250 sculptures created by such artists as Katy Perry and Bryan Adams. It’s one of the most public initiatives towards protecting Asian elephants. According to the 2017 Elephant Census, only 50,000 Asian elephants remain. “Over 27,000 of them are in India,” Ganesh says.

What is an elephant corridor?
  • It’s the creation of a secure pathway for elephants to move within their large habitats. When roads and towns start to replace forests, it eats into their natural paths. The elephants end up attacking people and being attacked in return.
  • Human-Elephant Conflict has replaced poaching as a major cause of dwindling numbers since the early 2000s. Data from the Wildlife Trust of India shows that around 400 humans and 100 elephants are killed in conflicts annually.
  • Corridor-building creates channels that connect elephant habitats so animals can roam safely. Roadways are planned to minimize overlaps with elephant paths. A major chunk of the work involves educating residents in these paths to allow elephants to travel undisturbed.
  • “It took us about 10 years to secure such a corridor in Kerala and present it as a viable option,” says Vivek Menon, CEO of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). A similar corridor was secured in Meghalaya. Work is underway in Karnataka and Assam. WTI’s own Gaj Yatra travels to towns and villages, where local artists build elephant sculptures, and kids perform skits to spread the message of conservation.
  • “Last week, the Union ministry of environment and forests passed a notification that would require all linear projects, such as railways and roadways, which cut through protected or environmentally sensitive areas, would need plans for passed for wildlife included in them,” says Menon, applauding the move.

The 101 corridors will require 20 million pounds (Rs 181 crore) by 2025 and the auction money will go to nonprofits including the Wildlife Trust of India, the Nature Conservation Foundation, the Wildlife Protection Society of India and the Wildlife Society of Odisha. Elephant Parade’s founder Mike Spits says that initiatives like this, and social media, have helped get the message across. “People are fortunately starting to slowly realise that we only have one planet and very few elephants left,” he says.

“This step in conservation goes beyond borders and politics,” says Parade ambassador Poonam Mahajan.

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 20:46 IST