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London is overrun with a herd of baby elephants — spotty polka-dotted, black-hatted, bejewelled and awash in blazing red and jade, the Asian pachyderms are trampling through the city's hotspots. From looming over Trafalgar Square and roaming around the Speaker's Corner at the iconic Hyde Park to stampeding outside the Royal Exchange, the nimble-footed pachyderms, created by top-of-the-heap artists from across the world, including Indian designers like Tarun Tahiliani and artists like Anjolie Ela Menon, are watching over the city.
The two-month-long elephant parade, the biggest art event in the city, has been organised by London-based charity Elephant Family. The Elephant Family was founded by Mark Shands (Camilla Parker Bowles' brother) to raise awareness about the conservation of Indian elephants (or Asian elephants ) in 2002. The initiative to have 258 brightly painted life-size elephants marching down central London is expected to raise £2 million and aid 17 conservation charities in the UK . According to the Elephant Family website, the elephants, which have been on the streets from May, delighting the bank holiday crowd, have attracted an audience of around 25 million.
Among the elephantine attractions is a clutch of hathis, beautifully created by Indian designers and artists. "It's quite a spectacular event and my creation is called Jewel-ele; it was selected from the 30 best models," said Tahiliani. Mumbai-based fashion designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla's Heaven's Hathi is splattered in fuchsia pink and covered with a hand embroidered throw made from gold thread, mirrors and beads. It's proved quite a draw with the daily crowd as well as London-based artist Nilesh Mistry.
Delhi-based artist Anjolie Ela Menon's shares: "I began working on my elephant a month back and it is inspired by early Mughal painting". Some other elephants grabbing the eyeballs are artist Chintan Upadhyay's The Empire Is Not Striking Back, with the sun god beaming brightly . Jitish Kallat's untitled creation plays on the macabre, with a pair of hands chaining the elephant. However, it is London-based artist Nandita Chaudhuri's pig-tailed Boogie Woogie elephant that has brought alive the FIFA mania, showing a one-shoed baby elephant dribbling the ball. Delhi-based designer Manish Arora's Hathi, on the other hand, is painted in his signature flowers with an Om ensconced on a lotus.
Suspended Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi, too, has created eight model elephants, titled after the Indian Premier League teams such as Rajasthan Royals, Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians, while Rina Banerjee, a New York-based artist, has reportedly plastered her elephant, Argus-like, with dozens of eyes. Maharaja Ranjitsinh Gaekwad of Baroda has contributed two creations titled Suraj and Gajaraj.
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