Creative Culture Column: Art with a cause

Our Creative Culture columnist Elizabeth Woodward visits the striking CoExistence sculptures on show at Waddesdon Manor.

A herd of life-size elephant sculptures may seem a little out of place in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor
in the middle of winter, but they carry an important message of coexistence and represent endangered animals worldwide attempting to survive in increasingly human-dominated habitats.

Elephant Family is made up of five Indian elephants; a matriarch, tusker, two male adolescents and a female calf. They are portraits of real elephants (called Philomena, Umed, Badai, Jitna and Baachcha) who live in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu.

This summer, 120 similar sculptures will begin their migration around the Royal Parks of London.

Elephant Family is part of the CoExistence campaign that aims to highlight how the growing human population causes competition between humans and animals for space and resources, which can cause irreparable damage to biodiversity.

The charity has Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, as joint royal
presidents. The sculptures were made by a team of local craftspeople over five years and truly capture the majesty of the gentle giants.

They are made from dried Lantana Camara stalks which were chosen to highlight how human activity interferes with ecosystems.

Originally brought to India by British tea planters as a decorative plant, it has become an invasive weed that has now overrun and caused a decline in local flora.

As the most densely populated continent on Earth, Asia is where the greatest number of wild animals face extinction. However, we are also facing this plight here in the UK, having lost around 60% of our wildlife in the last 50 years.

Endangered and biologically extinct native UK birds including storks, cranes and white tailed eagles depicted by British artists will be included in the campaign to highlight the issue closer to home.

Animal conservation is deeply rooted in the history of Waddesdon Manor, with Ferdinand de Rothschild being a huge animal lover who famously built artificial rock formations on his front lawn to house mountain goats and llamas.

The aviary built by the Baron is now one of Europe’s smallest zoos and home to many endangered species, with a focus on repopulation.

The sculptures are on sale and funds raised will help enable human-wildlife coexistence worldwide.

Elephant Family will be at Waddesdon Manor until 31st October 2021. Booking is required. For more information visit:
1. https://waddesdon.org.uk/whats-on/elephant-family/
2. https://elephant-family.org/

This feature was published in the February and March 2021 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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