Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Elephant No. 109: Feature Artist Gaynor Perry

London artist Gaynor Perry creates in an impressive range of media, including painting, photography, music and film. I am most drawn, of course, to her recent book, How Shall I Get Elephants to Stay.

The book is based on a dream Gaynor had, in which she was writing a book with a cover that read How Shall I Get Elephants to Stay. Deciding to honour that dream by making it come true, she produced the cover painting of an elephant with a woman clinging to its back. The inside of the book also features a dreamlike photograph of an Asian elephant and her baby that I love.

Blue Bear, 2014
Oil on board, 40 x 40 cm
Gaynor Perry
Source: gaynorperry.com

However, writing books is not all Gaynor does. She makes films, writes music, takes photographs—one of which was recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in London—and paints. I admit to a particular fondness for her painting Blue Bear, but I also really like her photographs of performers.

From the series, Portrait of Maz in Tulle, 2013
Gaynor Perry
Source: gaynorperry.com

Danik Abishev, from the series LIMBO, 2014
Gaynor Perry
Source: gaynorperry.com

For me, there is a certain melancholy in the question, "How shall I get elephants to stay?" How indeed. With elephants under severe threat worldwide, they may not be around for much longer. When and if that day comes, the only place any of us will be able to see them is in a zoo. Or in our dreams.

To see more of Gaynor Perry's work in all media, please visit her website here.

Mother elephant and baby, from the book
How Shall I Get Elephants To Stay by Gaynor Perry
Source: gaynorperry.com

Elephant Lore of the Day
Much has been written about elephant altruism, and how elephants will go to immense lengths to save one of their own. However, elephants have also been known to save members of other species, including humans, dogs—and, in one case a baby rhino, whose mother was so mad it kept trying to butt the elephant out of the way.

One of my favourite stories of elephant altruism, however, comes from The Elephant Whisperer by the late Lawrence Anthony, longtime head of conservation at the Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, South Africa.

Needing to relocate a group of nyala, Anthony and his team captured 12 bucks and put them in an enclosure for the evening, planning to move them the following day.

Nyala buck
Photo: Steve Cornish
Source: Wikipedia

The next morning, his team had a seemingly tall tale to tell. Around 11:00 the night before, while some of the men were sitting near the enclosure chatting, they'd heard the sound of elephants approaching. As the herd entered the clearing around the enclosure, the men beat a hasty retreat, assuming that the elephants were after the alfalfa left as feed for the nyala.

The men expected the elephants to crash through the enclosure, terrorize the nyala, eat the alfalfa—a tasty treat for elephants—then leave.

Instead, the herd matriarch, Nana, stepped forward and fiddled with the latches of the enclosure. She opened one latch, then the other, and swung the door open. As the first nyala escaped, followed by the other 11, Nana calmly turned around and led the elephant herd back into the bush, without touching the alfalfa.

The nyala had been rescued. Mission accomplished.

Nana the elephant with Lawrence Anthony at Thula Thula.
Source: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony.

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