Elephant Parade

Last December, I took a trip to the north to embrace the festive vibes, the nostalgia of old days, and the 10th anniversary of Elephant Parade. I spotted two baby elephant statues at the exit gate, and later I could see another bright pink elephant sculpture in the distance at Tha Pae. Although I’d planned to have a shopping spree at MAYA department store, I ended up taking photos with the biggest herd of Chiang Mai Elephant Parade standing guard at the front. Chiang Mai actually was taken over by Elephant Parade!

Back in 2006, father and son, Mark and Mike Spitz, went to Chiang Mai and met Mosha, a baby elephant who had lost her leg after stepping on a landmine in Myanmar. They were inspired and wanted to find the long-lasting way to aid elephant conservation, thus Elephant Parade was created. They use art as the main channel of raising awareness to help these majestic animals. Each elephant replica is 1.5 metres high, uniquely decorated in different ways. For the very first time they have opened the doors to the public to let us know them better at Elephant Parade Land & Museum (EPL).

EPL is the new Chiang Mai attraction which brings museums, art studio, and painting session into one place. Stepping into the museum, you will be greeted by a multi-coloured wall of Mosha. When I arrived to the section called “The Timeline Room”, Mike Spitz, the founder, smilingly introduced himself as a man who owns the elephant Ferrari. The Red Ferrari (on the elephant statue) proudly stood still amongst little elephant statues. I was impressed by the number of saved Asian elephants, the number of marvellous designs and, moreover, the number of people who have got involved.

In the last decade, Elephant Parade has visited many countries: the UK, the USA, China, Italy, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, France, Luxemburg and Brazil – connecting many millions of people to elephant conservation issues, and drawing in the enthusiasm and support of hundreds of top artists, celebrities and public figures. There’s so many surprises waiting for you to discover – for me I had no idea that Katy Perry could design and paint this incredibly, but her elephant enlightened me, so what about you?

The production rooms allow you to see how busy staff are making elephants to send all over the world with skilful techniques. You will also see behind the scenes of all your hand-made souvenirs. The best part of the EPL experience was I could paint my own elephant sculptures in the way I was inspired, and I could proudly announce that this elephant statue is mine!

Although the elephant is the symbol of the Thai Kingdom, sometimes it has been formed to be surreal or to be devalued. Thus, I found that the way Elephant Parade awakens us to support elephants is venturous and creative. If you’re an artist, you have to see the canvas clearly before starting your procedures, while from where the viewer stands, the more you spend time with it, the more you appreciate and understand. Elephant Parade helps to represent elephants to be more concrete and connected, and to spread the truth that even their gigantic sizes couldn’t save this creature from extinction.

The 10th edition of Elephant Parade was the largest art exhibition of 89 elephant sculptures, and took place over the streets of the city from December 9, 2016, until January 15, 2017. For this 10th anniversary, all 89 elephants will return from their travels to be in one place at Elephant Parade Land on January 21, 2017. When the 89 elephants are together, it is the real Elephant Parade but look closely – I can see that it is the true ‘Movement of People’.

Text by Apitchada Sompama
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