'Grand elder statesman - African bull elephant' 2016
Pastel on Supertooth paper
Dimensions 73 X 100 cm
This pastel painting shows a grand old bull elephant which my good mate Stephen Powell and I stumbled across while exploring Northern Kruger at the very end of the dry season. Like humans African elephants get more wrinkles as they age and often their tusks are broken or worn right down to the nub from many long years of hard work levering rocks to get at tree roots , ripping out trees and tree limbs and of course from thundering into battle with rival males with little regard for potential injuries sustained along the way. You can visit the Elephant Museum in Kruger if you are ever in Africa and you will find there two bull elephant skulls locked together with the tusk of one driven clean through the skull of the other in a deadly fight. Both animals were then locked together and suffered a rather tragic death as a result.
This ancient fella was in an isolated riverbed bathing and drinking when we happened upon him at the dry Northern end of Kruger. Not at all phased by our appearance at his morning bath he completed his leisurely drink before climbing up the hill out of the river bed and over to a handy clearing in the dessicated mopani scrub.....brittle and leafless at that time of year. For the next half hour we watched from close by in our little Volkswagen polo hire car as he thoroughly dusted himself from end to end applying nature's sunscreen and insect shield of bright orange dust.
At no time did he show anything other than comfortable acceptance of our presence and indeed he moved closer to us as time went by and he dusted himself thoroughly. Ultimately when he had completed his ablutions he raised his head and walked his 5000/6000kgs ever so slowly but deliberately towards our diminutive hire car (which I gather from doctor Google weighs 985kg)!!!
As he got closer and closer I began to think about backing up since he made no attempt at diversion at all. At the point where he was only a few metres off and still tracking straight at the left front passenger side where a nervous Stephen P sat I realised that he simply wanted to walk on through the space we occupied with the car....no doubt his daily pathway from the bathtub and dusting area. Backing quietly up a few metres allowed him to virtually rub past our vehicle's front grille and around it before moving off into the scrub to our right.
At all times he repaid the respect we had shown him with his patient and gentle regard of these two curious but apparently harmless critters in the car.
For their part the hire company was eternally grateful that he chose not to squash both us and the car!!