On the 16 June 2016, a group of young leaders from Net Vir Pret in Barrydale travelled with puppeteers from Cape Town to begin what for most was their first live experience of being up close with Elephants. This was in preparation for the new giant puppet event, Olifantland, a huge celebration created with local youth and children attended by thousands in the community, that happens annually around Reconciliation Day in this dusty Klein Karoo farming town. And the Barrydale event is so much more than a puppet parade. Every year the community tackle potent questions that challenge and push the bar around serious issues that the community face, seeking out the difficult and darker aspects of identity and history using puppetry to find new ways for expression and creative routes for hope.
This year the team is exploring our connection as South Africans, to Elephants, and where we stand in the face of their decimation and eradication from our lives and heritage. What is our heritage, as custodians of this land, to nature and Elephants as a vital clue to accessing our deepest humanity? What do Elephants even mean to us in our day to day struggles as human beings? Can we connect with them as sentient beings who are part of our connection to the greater web of life? What is the connection between Elephants and their plight, to our own and our place in nature today?
Here are some words and images from the young leaders on the trip to Addo:
‘Gister was die natuur ‘n groot eenvoud…As diere ‘n manier kan vind om te kommunikeer, en mense ‘n manier het om to verwyt, hoe baie kan ons nie leer van die natuur nie? Vandag was ‘n lewens veranderende ervaring”
“For me this experience has been life changing. I say this because out here I’ve been seeing animals in their natural habitat and the way nature has evolved. The birds in flight, of just sitting in the bush gave me a sense of their freedom and how they use that freedom. Wisely…I felt completely overwhelmed by their beauty. Then there was the majestic Elephants and how they live, just like human beings they are tight knitted together. It makes you long for certain aspects in your own life”
“Dit was ongelooflik te sien hoe hulle met mekaar kommunikeer, selfs hoe hulle met mekaar omgee en beskerm…Die Olifant is net soon ‘n mens”
“For me it was a great experience. I have learnt so much about elephants today…I didn’t know that elephants play an important role in nature and that they provide food for other animals as well. They are so protective towards their babies. I also learnt of the plant they eat to produce milk for their babies”