INDIA IS GLOBAL CONSERVATION MIRACLE.

India's elephants are inspiring compassionate coexistence with other species wherever they tread.

In the last 40 years the population of India has doubled to 1.4 billion. Remarkably, this growth has been alongside an increase in the number of elephants, rhinos, lions and tigers. This extraordinary success is down to a collective empathy for other living beings at a national scale.

All funds raised through the The Great Elephant Migration will be directed to projects that protect biodiversity and enable people and wildlife to share space.


LANTANA CAMARA

The elephants are made from lantana camara, one of the world’s top invasive weeds. This fast growing, noxious shrub has a stranglehold on 300,000sq. kilometers of India’s Protected Areas. Lantana pushes animals out of their forest homes into urban areas leading to an increase in human-wildlife conflict. The use of lantana to create the elephants helps remove the weed from protected areas, leaving wildlife more space to roam.

THE COEXISTENCE COLLECTIVE

Each elephant in the 100-strong herd has been meticulously crafted by The Coexistence Collective, a community of 200 indigenous Indian artisans from the Bettakurumba, Paniya, Kattunayakan and Soliga tribes in India's Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The collective has spent the past five years beautifully bringing to life every elephant they live alongside, in intricately detailed sculptural form. Like many indigenous cultures around the world, these communities have intimate knowledge of nature and wildlife, based on generations of observation and experience.

The Kattunayakans

The Kattunayakans live throughout the two districts in the Nilgiri Hills, across 44 settlements. They are the most forest dependent of all the communities, as is implied by their name: Kattu (forest) Nayakans (rulers). Traditionally hunter-gatherers, and skilled honey collectors, they have a rich knowledge of forest systems and resources.

The Bettakurumbas

The Bettakurumbas are one of seven Kurumba groups in the Nilgiri area. Like the Kattunayakans, they were traditionally hunter-gatherers, and are known for their elephant handling expertise, with many working as mahouts.

The Paniyas

The Paniyas are the largest tribe in the region. They have faced a long history of marginalization and have traditionally been associated with
agricultural activities, often as laborers on farms and plantations.

The Soligas

The Soligas have a deep connection to the forest, which is integral to their cultural and spiritual identity, whilst the sale of foraged forest produce provides a livelihood for many.

MARIGAN ANNA - BOND WITH THE FOREST

Dr Tarsh Thekaekara

Tarsh lives in the Nilgiri Hills and is involved in two main areas of research and conservation action – better integrating human-elephant spaces and better managing invasive species, particularly Lantana Camara. Tarsh holds a PhD in human-elephant interactions from The Open University and an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management from The University of Oxford. As a conservationist researcher he spans multiple institutions - a co-founder and trustee of The Shola Trust, a director of The Real Elephant Collective, a working group member of the Coexistence Consortium, and faculty at the Centre for Human-Wildlife Coexistence at the Transdisciplinary University.

Ruth Ganesh

Ruth is a creative conservationist who conceptualized and produced The Great Elephant Migration. Her speciality is imagining and delivering major public art events around the world, which have raised more than $20 million for wildlife corridors and human-wildlife coexistence projects to date. Awards include Best Cultural Attraction, Most Innovative Fundraising Campaign and multiple Guinness World Records. She is a co-founder of The CoExistence Collective, Trustee of Elephant Family USA, Chair of the Development Board for Pangea Trust and co-founder of the new environmental arts body, Platform Earth.

Shubhra Nayar

Shubhra is designer for performance, visualising and creating for mainstream theatre, dance and life-size puppetry. Her close association with the Nilgiri forests and her fascination with the distinct forms of wild elephants, has helped develop her expertise in creating life-size forms elephant sculptures. With a degree in Textile Design from the prestigious national Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India and an MA in Theatre Design from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, in the UK, Shubhra’s anatomical sketches for the elephants encapsulate the individual in each elephant, weaving innate nature with grand form.

Subhash Gautam

Subhash's passion is to work with rural communities to establish enterprises that empower them to engage with the market economy on their own terms, rather than simply being passive participants in the global system. He helped build a producer company for women SHG members in Kerala and Odisha and set up retailing models of their farm produce. With The Real Elephant Collective, he has been instrumental in building the 150-strong team of elephant makers, creating a sense of pride and self-worth, while gaining an income well above the local and national average, working as independent entrepreneurs and agents of social change.

Marsha Meredith

Marsha is a global creative director who previously lead Aesop’s creative strategy and team and now consults with founders to launch and shape their businesses. She has strong experience in luxury retail brands and tangentially with architecture and the arts, collaborating with institutions including The Judd Foundation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Tate Modern, The Serpentine Pavilion, MONA and The Paris Review. Marsha curated the Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn areas of the 2014 Fabergé Big egg Hunt in New York, alongside Ruth Ganesh, as well as creating a few of the eggs herself.

Michael Turek

Photographs throughout The Great Elephant Migration website are the work of Michael Turek. Michael is an award-winning British-American fine art photographer who focuses on documentary assignments for clients including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The New York Times and The Paris Review. He has worked extensively in challenging environments, most recently in Iraq and Tajikistan. His book, CONTRAIL, published by Roman Numerals in 2021, is included in the MoMA Archives and Library. His first photographic monograph, SIBERIA was published by Damiani in 2020 — the culmination of three years’ work in Russia with long-time collaborator, writer Sophy Roberts, which received global TV, radio and print coverage. He is currently working on two long-term documentary projects in East Africa and northern England.

ABOUT OUR LOGO

Our logo and brand motifs were designed by celebrated Indian truck artists George and Thomas from Tamil Nadu. Lorry painting is a type of folk art – one of the expressions of India so loved by visitors to this magical country. This traditional practice combines bright, elaborate paintings and decorative motifs. Styles vary across regions with artists often incorporating animals in bold celebratory colours, reflecting India’s collective empathy towards the natural world. These unique trucks are a quintessential part of Indian culture, captivating the attention of onlookers as they travel across the country, just as the elephants will during their Great Migration from East to West Coast.

The elephants await your arrival. Come and walk amongst the herd, feel their majesty and peacefulness. Listen to the birdsong in the trees and be part of their ancient world. Stand with the matriarchs leading their families, touch their immense forms and be touched by them. The planet is our home, and theirs. The herd is here to tell their story of coexistence; that there is room for all of us on this planet. We hope this exhibition reminds us of the awe we feel when in the company of wild, free animals and inspires us to better share our world with them.

RUTH GANESH

ELEPHANT FAMILY & THE COEXISTENCE COLLECTIVE