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Elephant sculpture on parade

Nomkhubulwane, a life-size elephant sculpture made of recycled truck tires by a South African artist – with the goal of catalyzing a conversation about  our changing relationship with the natural world – is in Chicago through July 30.

Sculptor Andries Botha will be in Chicago for the coming week and has several educational activities scheduled.

This Saturday, June 12, at 10 a.m., Botha will be joined by singer/songwriter Claudia Schmidt and Chicago artist David Csicsko for an interactive arts program for children at IIT’s Crown Hall, 34th and State, where the elephant has been located for the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, June 15 at 7 p.m., Botha will discuss “public intellectuals and public space” at the University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th, joined by Theaster Gates, director of arts programming for the university.

Friday, June 18, at 11:30 a.m., Botha will be joined by Vance Martin of the WILD Foundation, a global organization focused on wilderness conservation, for a lecture titled, “Can We Live Without the Elephant?”  That’s at Rice Hall in the Field Museum.  (Pre-registration for the lecture, at, includes free admission to the museum.)

Nomkhubulwane moves to Merchandise Mart Sunday for next week’s Neocon design show, and on to the Field Museum on Thursday.  The sculpture, one of 17 created by Botha, began its journey to North America with a visit to Mexico for the World Wildlife Conference last September.  Its Chicago stay is organized by Imagine Chicago.

As the largest land mammal, the elephant “represents the power and vulnerability of the environment,” Botha has said.  His sculptures “represent the world of nature from which we have removed ourselves and for which we increasingly yearn.”  Kids like them, too.

The goal of Botha’s Human Elephant Foundation is to foster “collaborative conversations that bring about a more supportive relationship with a planet in crisis.”

“As the world becomes increasingly populated and territorial, threats to both elephants and humans increase.”

The world’s elephant population has dropped from between 5- and 10-million a hundred years ago to roughly 500,000 today.  Some African elephant populations are stable but some are threatened by illegal poaching; Chad’s elephant population has dropped from 300,000 to 10,000 since 1970.  Despite a 21-year ban on the ivory trade, there’s been “a dramatic surge in illegal trafficking since 2005,” according to AFP.

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Category: animals, arts, environment, international


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