Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

ELEPHANT EMBARKS ON AN EPIC ROUND TRIP

© Ferrari
Virginia McKenna checking in with the elephant!
© Ferrari
The Kenya Airways crew with the elephant airside at Heathrow
© Ferrari
Boxed up and ready to fly!!
NORWICH – NAIROBI- NORWICH

A lifesize baby elephant sculpture flew from Heathrow airport on 17th April 2008 with Virginia McKenna OBE, in a ground breaking school arts project for Kenya.

The special elephant cargo journeyed from Norwich City Centre to London Heathrow Airport before being carefully loaded onto the Kenya Airways KQ 101 night flight to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

On arrival in Nairobi, Virginia, and the exquisite elephant sculpture, will be met by newly appointed Minister for Forestry and wildlife in Kenya, Hon. Noah Wekesa and showcased at a press conference, highlighting the need to protect Kenya’s wild elephant population.

From here, the elephant calf will journey in a Land Rover convoy to Ol Moti School, neighbouring the World Famous Amboseli National Park, home to over 1500 wild elephants, where it will be received by the children and teachers of Ol Moti, in a colourful and traditional Maasai welcome ceremony. 

A local artist will assist the Ol Moti School children to create the artwork and the chosen design will be painted on to the elephant before being brought back to the UK to be exhibited on the streets of Norwich as part of the Go Elephants event. It will then be sold at a charity auction in Norwich in September, to help raise funds for The Born Free Foundation’s elephant conservation programmes.

The elephant calf sculpture, which is made out of fibreglass, stands at an impressive 120cm, 75cm wide and weighs approximately 50kg.

Virginia McKenna said ,’The elephant is a fascinating animal that is a constant presence in many of these children’s lives, so this opportunity, sponsored by Land Rover and Kenya Airways, is a wonderful way to ignite their artistic talents. This amazing project will enable the children to paint and have fun, whilst working on a theme about human and animal conflict, which, for them, is often a reality’.

The ‘Go Elephants’ project is a partnership between The Forum Trust and Wild in Art, will be a highlight event this summer in Norwich and will culminate in a 10 weeks public art exhibition in Norwich City Centre, where the unique elephant sculptures designed by local artists, over 50 in total, will amass. The Ol Moti designed elephant will be amongst those exhibited.

ELEPHANT REACHES KENYA!!

© Charlie Grieves-Cook
Children of Olmoti and the elephant
© Charlie Grieves-Cook
Virginia McKenna and the Hon. Dr. Wekesa
© Charlie Grieves-Cook
Hon. Dr. Wekesa and Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service Mr Julius Kipng’etich
Children of Olmoti in traditional Maasai dress
NORWICH – NAIROBI- NORWICH

A lifesize baby elephant sculpture flew from Heathrow airport on 17th April 2008 with Virginia McKenna OBE, in a ground breaking school arts project for Kenya.

The special elephant cargo journeyed from Norwich City Centre to London Heathrow Airport before being carefully loaded onto the Kenya Airways KQ 101 night flight to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

On arrival in Nairobi, Virginia, and the exquisite elephant sculpture, were met by newly appointed Minister for Forestry and Wildlife in Kenya, Hon. Noah Wekesa and 15 children from Olmoti Primary School who travelled from Amboseli NP.

For the 15 children from Olmoti Primary School in Amboseli National Park, coming to Nairobi for the very first time was special enough. However, the chance to meet the founder of Born Free Foundation, Virginia McKenna, and one of the Go Elephants! life-size baby elephant sculptures crowned the experience for them.  Dressed in traditional Maasai regalia and armed with presents for Virginia, the children danced at Nairobi airport as they welcomed the elephant to Kenyan soil.

Kenya Airways kindly brought Virginia and the elephant to Africa and Land Rover are supporting its local travels to Olmoti School.  The elephant will be designed and painted by the children of Olmoti and professional artist Jason Corder in Maasai colours to reflect the significant issue human-elephants conflict, before it begins its long journey back to Norwich, England.

The children from Amboseli then entertained guests at the Born Free office in Nairobi.  They also read a poem to the new Kenyan Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Hon. Dr. Noah Wekesa, pledging their support for elephant conservation but also highlighting some of the problems they face with wildlife, often literally on their path to school. The Minister was inspired by the number of young Kenyans in the audience at the Go Elephants! launch, and by the growing interest of Kenya’s youth in wildlife and animal welfare.

Dr. Wekesa stated that he was honoured to be involved with Born Free again in his new Ministerial capacity after he launched the Born Free Kenyan film production, Mizoga, in 2007. The Minister went on to say that “in Africa a wife could never forget the first house she builds with her new husband - Born Free is like this first home for me and will always have my affection and support.”

Once painted the elephant will be brought back to the UK to be exhibited on the streets of Norwich as part of the Go Elephants! event. It will then be sold at a charity auction in Norwich in September, to help raise funds for The Born Free Foundation’s elephant conservation programmes.

The elephant calf sculpture, which is made out of fibreglass, stands at an impressive 120cm, 75cm wide and weighs approximately 50kg.

The ‘Go Elephants’ project is a partnership between The Forum Trust and Wild in Art, will be a highlight event this summer in Norwich and will culminate in a 10 weeks public art exhibition in Norwich City Centre, where the unique elephant sculptures designed by local artists, over 50 in total, will amass. The Ol Moti designed elephant will be amongst those exhibited.

Meluami the Amboseli Elephant

© BF Kenya
Maasai women welcoming the elephant
© BF Kenya
Elsie, one of the BF Kenya team and the children of Ol Moti
© BF Kenya
Giving the elephant a mud bath!
© BF Kenya
Head teach of Ol Moti
© BF Kenya
Meluami - just finished!

The school children couldn’t wait to get their hands on the elephant sculpture when it arrived at Olmoti School but initially there was a small ceremony to welcome it to Olmoti, together with Jason Corder, the artist who was going to help them paint it.

The Born Free Kenya team introduced the sculpture to the children and community members who had gathered in the school hall. The children were allowed to touch the elephant and start to think of ways to decorate it. 

“Meluami”

When it came to the name, the children were bubbling with ideas.  The winning name was suggested by 16 year old Kerembu, who proposed “Meluami”.  Kerembu, who used to walk to school before the dorm was built with Born Free funding, said he had encountered elephants many times on foot.  Meluami in Maa means “the one who is always alert”, meaning that no matter how good you are in evading elephants,  somehow they still hear you.  He said it was impossible to catch an elephant unawares. The group thought the name was appropriate because it represents how the children feel about the animals and  the fact that there is a mixed feeling of fear and respect brings an understanding between the children and the elephants.

So with Meluami now clearly an Amboseli elephant, it was time to get ideas of how to decorate it.  Jason suggested using the ochre colour, commonly used by Maasai morans to decorate themselves, but the children and women came up with their own ideas.  One good idea from a child was to decorate Meluami with Maasai colours so that when it went back to Norwich it would represent their area.  Some parents wanted to tell the world about the conflict they have with elephants, while the teachers suggested decoration depicting how they're educating the community about conservation and the preservation of elephants.  With ideas flowing, we set out to find red earth.  This entailed a drive of about 40km to a special pit where the best red earth is mined!

Amboseli elephant

Early the next day, Jason showed the children how to mix the earth and with their hands and it was a mad mud bath for Meluami.  Within minutes, Meluami was at home in the natural Maasai earth.  Then followed a coat of glue to keep the earth intact.  Next was to sit with the children and sketch some ideas for the decorations.  The proposed patterns were based on some of the bracelets the boys wore.  It was agreed that the girls and women would decide on the colours.  With a rich orange hue, a colour that is dominant in Maasai clothes, the first pattern was painted on.   It was the first time most of the children had used a paint brush and they were very excited. 

With many helping hands the colours were soon finished and it was time to do the bead work.  Maasai are famous for their beads and the women took centre stage on this job.  They came up with the colour patterns and the girls had their chance to help by placing the beads carefully.

On the front of the head, it was decided to tell a story about human and elephant conflict. So red beads were carefully dropped on glue in a pattern which was decided would reflect conflict.  The green beads around the red ones represented nature and the environment. 

Ready to return to the UK

Everyone took part, teachers, parents and children.  The end result is fantastic and with its new passport, Meluami the elephant made its way back to Nairobi in preparation for the flight back to the UK.  But not before stopping off at Kenya’s biggest supermarket chain, Nakumatt, which displayed the elephant in its Nairobi branch shop window for a fortnight. 

Finally, before being escorted home to the UK by Will Travers, Meluami was met by the Kenya Wildlife Service Director, Mr Julius Kipng’etich.

However, Meluami’s journey is not yet finished – the elephant is currently residing at Born Free Foundation’s offices in Horsham before being transported to Norwich in coming weeks – look out for more information on Meluami’s fantastic journey here!! 

Destination Norwich

  • © Mike Dooley
  • © Mike Dooley
  • © Mike Dooley
The journey continues

Meluami’s journey is not yet finished – the elephant was residing at Born Free Foundation’s offices in Horsham, along with Born Free's own elephant, before being transported with a herd of elephants to Norwich by National Express trains on 19th June 2008.  Born Free's elephant is staying back in London to be resident at Liverpool Street station!!!

The herds arrival from Liverpool Street will mark the imminent opening of the Go Elephants! exhibition that culminates in a mammoth 10 week public art exhibition in Norwich city centre.

Star attraction is Meiluami, an elephant calf that recently travelled to Kenya and back. Meiluami, which means 'always alert' in Maa, was named by children from Ol Moti school in Kenya and is now an official Born Free Ambassador. She will join over 50 of these unique elephant sculptures, which will be displayed throughout Norwich this summer.

Virginia McKenna OBE, the founder of the Born Free Foundation who accompanied Meiluami on her epic journey said. "This little elephant symbolises the spirit of Africa. Her vivid colours, her delicate Maasai beading and brown earth skin conjure up the magic of the open plains".

The herd travelled on the 11.00am National Express train from Platform 9, arriving at Norwich city central railway station at 12.52pm.

The Go Elephants! public art exhibition will open in Norwich city centre on 23rd June, and as a special incentive to see the elephant sculptures, National Express will be offering a '2 for 1' offer on all train tickets to Norwich for the duration of the exhibition (see below). 'Meiluami' will be on display for the 10 week exhibition in the Cloisters of Norwich Cathedral.

National Express is offering 2 for 1 on advance train tickets (from £6 each way) from London to Norwich only, valid in the first 2 weeks of Go Elephants. Customers will need to purchase a National Express East Anglia advance ticket on the National Express website www.nationalexpress.com/eastanglia and then download a free ticket at www.nationalexpress.com/2for1travel using the code nrw2008.  The free voucher will act as a ticket when accompanied with a valid advance ticket purchased.  

© Boniface Kabuga – Nation Media Group
Will Travers and KWS Director, Mr Julius Kipng’etich, with Meluami the elephant!
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


Share | |
twitterfacebookyoutuberssenews