Addressing the Elephant

Anjali Jhangiani
Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Farah Siddiqui, curator of the Elephant Parade India, says the statues of the pachyderm displayed at public venues in Mumbai, are meant for everyone to take a close look at the artworks

LN Tallur, Princess Pea, Christian Louboutin, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Masaba Gupta and many others worked on gorgeous designs for 101 elephant sculptures that are on display at various venues across Mumbai for three weeks. A campaign aimed at creating awareness about endangered Asian elephants whose numbers have fallen by 90 per cent in the last century, Elephant Parade India was launched at Gateway of India, Mumbai, on February 25. 

With politician Poonam Mahajan as the brand ambassador of the initiative, 101 elephants sculptures are being put up for sale and the proceeds will be donated towards building ‘Elephant Corridors’ across key regions of India. Curator Farah Siddiqui tells us more about it. 

As development takes place, real estate pushes jungles out of existence. Elephant Family, an international NGO dedicated to protecting the Asian elephant from extinction in the wild, champions the cause for building corridors for elephants along their migration routes. 

According to the Elephant Parade website, massive loss of habitat has caused elephant numbers to plummet by 90 per cent. Though real estate development is an important factor for the growth of a country, it is equally important not to destroy the natural habitat for such animals. 

Siddiqui explains, “We want to avoid human-animal conflict as much as we can. There will be development, there’s no stopping that, but why can’t we make an effort to live in harmony? This is what Elephant family, which is supported by the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall and Patron His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar, Jodhpur, strives to do. With the funds from the sale of the decorated elephant statues, we will be building corridors across various regions of India so that the mammals can travel on their migration routes without damaging human lives and property. The project has been displayed in 22 countries all over the world.”

She adds, “We are glad to have Poonam Mahajan as the ambassador, not because of her political affiliations or influence, but because she has great passion for animal causes. She has rescued many elephants from the temples in South India and sent them to Agra for rehabilitation.”

Siddiqui was appointed as the curator of this campaign a year ago. Since then it has been her job to get in touch with various artists, designers and professionals in creative fields, and make a list of the best talents in the country. Once that was done, the elephant sculptures were sent to the artists, who worked on it in their own way over a period of a few weeks to a few months, depending on how full their plate was and how much time they could dedicate towards this project. “We definitely wanted to showcase the tribal art of India, so we got artist Balu Mashe on board to contribute with his Warli art. We’ve got other artists who have displayed tribal art too. We’ve also got fashion designers like Rohit Bal, Varun Bahl, Manish Malhotra, Monisha Jaising, Anita Dongre, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla and many others, who have commissioned their work to this initiative very generously. Small exhibitions have taken place in the last four-five months across the country. There was a small showcase of elephants when Prince Charles and Princess Camilla visited India last November, and then again in Kolkata,” she says. 

The elephant statues would serve a dual purpose — the first is to raise funds of course, the second is to showcase how rich India is in terms of art and craft. “This is believed to be one of the largest public art projects in India. Art is democratic, it belongs to everyone. Thus everyone can go up close to the elephant sculptures and have a look at the artwork. The main purpose of all this is to create awareness about the state of the elephants in India,” says Siddiqui. 

The elephant sculptures are displayed in small herds at various places in Mumbai.

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