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A canvas for the rhino

‘The Rhinos Are Coming’, a public art initiative in South Africa

‘The Rhinos Are Coming’, a public art initiative in South Africa   | Photo Credit: S B Vijaya Mary

Rhinos in South Africa have been given another shot at life through ‘The Rhinos Are Coming’, an initiative that brings together art, conservation and the travel industry

If art has its reasons, the reason here is the rhino. In their fight for survival, the rhinos of South Africa have found allies in the artists. Last season, the famed Table Mountain in Cape Town had competition. Vying for tourists’ attention was a crash of rhinos spread across town — more prominently at Victoria and Albert Waterfront.

Cast in sculptures

A canvas for the rhino

Made of fibreglass, the eye-catching, life-sized, painted rhino sculptures are part of a public outdoor art exhibition called ‘The Rhinos Are Coming’ (TRAC). Founder and programme director of the art initiative, Janice Ashby, who is at the forefront of the campaign to spread awareness about the plight of South Africa’s rhinos, says TRAC is a “fun-filled yet passionate approach to raising funds for the endangered species that will bring in visitors and tourists as well”. The proceeds from the auction of these sculptures will go to the beneficiary that works for the protection of the rhinos.

The rhino venture successfully initiated patrons of art to fund and sponsor the making and painting of the rhinos that would be auctioned at the end of the exhibition in mid-2019.

The rhinos that are being exhibited at shopping malls, the airport, the carnival and the stadium, have a plaque attached to the base that includes the sponsor’s brand/logo and the details of the recipient of funds. Popular hotels and corporations are at the forefront, supporting rhino conservation.

When the idea was conceived, Janice was clear about who her artists were going to be. “As a designer, I was able to visualise which artist’s styles would suit the creation of a rhino that would capture the attention of the audience when confronted by a life-size friendly rhino in an unexpected location. Colour and visual appeal were the criteria,” she shares.

The identical casts of rhinos made from a mould were transported to the artists, letting them create masterpieces out of them. Celebrity artists like Lionel Smit, Beezy Bailey and Peter Gray, along with up-and-coming ones, pitched in with their brushes. “Sponsors were free to brief an artist and to use their rhinos to display their corporate branding and a theme, but those rhinos will not go on public exhibitions. They may use them at their office locations and to promote their brands,” says Janice.

Stop poaching

The sculptures that are being exhibited at public places, specially at the V&A Waterfront, have a distinct native aura — the colours, the patterns and the themes. The rhino sculpture with its horn cut, tells the tale of the grave threat they face.

“We hope this campaign will develop into an ongoing project with different endangered African animals exhibited every year or two. We need sponsors, and without them, we cannot paint and exhibit rhinos and support conservation,” says Janice.

Janice’s plea gains significance in the wake of rhino-poaching. The last decade saw over 7,000 rhinos being killed in South Africa. If art can come to their rescue, one needs to go all out to support the cause.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 6:51:53 AM |

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