It is one of the world’s largest open-air exhibitions comprising life-sized elephant statues decorated by international artists to generate worldwide attention and support for the endangered Asian elephant. Initiated in 2006 as a social enterprise, the latest edition of the Elephant Parade rolled out in Los Angeles on August 23. Among the vibrantly coloured statutes was a black beauty from India. Made from polyester fibre, this one, with shining bright eyes (in crystal) and the body intricately painted in marble inlay style with gold leaf detail and a golden dome-styled crown — is unmistakable in its Indian origin. The sculpture has been created by well-known Indian jewellery designer Mira Gulati under her brand Mirari.
Incidentally, it’s the first time globally that a jewellery brand has participated in the parade. In the past, the event has seen fashion designers (Indian designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla participated in 2010) and artists from various fields put forth their creations.
“Elephant Parade has, over the years, helped in the best possible way to conserve elephants. My support is minimal in front of the entire parade but I wanted it to be the best,” said Gulati, who was inspired by the Taj Mahal — albeit with a twist. Instead of the present structure, images of which are familiar all over the world, Mira chose to work on the “unfinished” black Taj Mahal envisioned by its creator, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. “Taj Mahal is the biggest symbol of Indian heritage and culture. But Shah Jahan wanted to create an identical black marble Taj Mahal opposite to the white one. We never got to see the black Taj Mahal and it will always be an imaginary wonder. Drawing from that, I presented a black elephant in the hope that the elephant never becomes a thing of imagination for the generations to come,” said Gulati.
The works are now open for public view at Dana Point, California, for the next 10 weeks and would be auctioned at the end of the event. The proceeds would be donated towards the Asian Elephant Foundation that supports various projects such as elephant hospitals.