a city through the eyes of a girl who's not sure how she ended up here

Friday, 7 May 2010

The elephant in the road

When I was at primary school I was taught that there were two types of elephant; the Indian (small ears) and the African (big ears). My teachers were wrong - they lied. Or they'd just never been to London. Here we have hundreds of different types. In the past week our streets have been invaded by psychedelic pachyderms. They skulk in parks, watch the traffic go by from the pavements, and sit in shadows of office buildings, overseeing courier deliveries and cigarette breaks.
They are here for the 2010 London Elephant Parade, all 250 plus of them. Both a public awareness drive and a citywide art project, these fibreglass creatures are here to raise money for the endangered Asian elephant; within 30 years these noble, beautiful animals could all be gone if the conservation effort to save them fails. So numerous artists and celebrities have jumped on the environmentalist bandwagon and doodled, designed and decorated for an ultimate charity auction.
This is "Boogie Woo", who lives in the garden in the middle of SoHo Square. With her pigtales and patchwork sketches, she is an elephantine drawing board, covered in fantasy castles and cobalt kingfishers. The braincalf of artist Nandita Chaudhuri parks her bottom amid the parrot tulips and carefully-tended turf, and watches the tourists and shoppers of Oxford Street stream down to the West End.
Some elephants shelter from our inclement May indoors. Jack Vettriano's "The Singing Butler Rides Again" rides again through the Burlington Arcade, with Vettriano's signature scrawled on his white behind like a graffiti tag on a park bench. Down the far end of the Arcade stands his Swarovskvi-encrusted friend named "Manasuna", twinkling away under her sparkling blue eyelashes.
And my favourite so far, the nearest to my flat, "Gaia Elephant", smiling eyes hiding behind Eurasia. When I see him I am almost home, but he is miles from where he belongs. Dislocated beasts from a world far, far away from this city.
And whilst their fibreglass friends tramp the Southbank savanna, over in New York City the real deal have been staging their own parade. Don't believe me? Truly, I'm not kidding. Who knew that the wildlife in our Western cities could be so wild?

5 comments:

  1. I love the elephants.
    They are much more appealing than the fibreglass cows that were doing the rounds a few years ago!

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  2. They're so charming, and as you say, endlessly more bewitching than the cows. Apparently Amsterdam had an elephant infestation last year too...

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  3. I saw my first one today - just outside the Lloyds Building in the City. It was themed around Isambard Kingdom Brunel and stopping people in their tracks.

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  4. I wonder if David Lynch will make an elephant, and if it will be rejected like his cow (see http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/WolfFiles/story?id=95752)

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  5. Hmmm, funnily enough the elephant people haven't risked it this time!

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