About Olifantland


Opening 18 December 2016, Barrydale

Since its inception in 2010, the Barrydale giant puppet parade and performance has become a landmark creative event in this small farming town on the R62 in the Klein Karoo. This annual site- specific community puppetry performance event that involves nearly 200 local learners, youths and performers, is a creative collaboration between the Handspring Puppet Trust (and Handspring Puppet Company Creative team), the award winning NPO Net vir Pret based in Barrydale and the University of the Western Cape’s HSRC flagship. This year, the Handspring Puppet Company’s award winning head designer, Adrian Kohler (who designed and created the horses for War Horse), with the help of upcoming puppet making team Ukwanda (headed by Luyanda Nogodlwana) will be bringing to life a herd of size Elephants in the magnificent landscape of the Tradouw Valley. Directed and choreographed by Aja Marneweck with original sound composition by Simon Kohler and local Barrydale musicians Peter Takelo and Gary Crawford, over 120 children will also be making and performing their own puppets with designs guided by Jill Joubert.

Inspired by Lawrence Anthony’s novel the Elephant Whisperer, this year’s performance entitled Olifantland is a re-working of a story about re-connection to these powerful, hugely intelligent creatures. We explore our ancestral connections to elephants and our own potential to tap into their highly developed emotional landscapes and sense of community and family. Elephants are sentient creatures who can provide a moral compass for the way we treat each other and our families, they teach us about how to be better, kinder and more aware human beings.  Science is only now bringing to light the almost magical capabilities of elephants to communicate between eachother via subsonic frequencies over vast distances, of their vital contribution to the health and growth of eco-systems and the significance of the ancient migration routes they have followed across our continent for millennia.

Yet the incessant demand for ivory, continued habitat loss and increasing human conflict paint a bleak future for the survival of African elephants. Despite the ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still being poached in large numbers. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed every year for their ivory tusks. The survival of the African elephant has never been at such risk.

The piece will provoke as much as it will inspire us. It seeks a new way into sharing resources where local communities can lead in a viable and mutually beneficial way to preserve our animals and land. It calls us to look at our relationship with elephants as well as eachother. It asks what place elephant conservation has in a country where the majority of our citizens still fight daily for basic human rights, food, land, water and education. In the current South African political and economic climate, how can the preservation of nature and the land sit within systems that uphold equal land ownership, true aandeeling for farming communities (shared resources and ownership) and viable community upliftment initiatvies. The answers are neither forthcoming nor easy.

Through life size puppetry and collaborative creativity, Olifantland will explore these vital questions whilst also igniting the land and people in a communal celebration of the possibilities of life, shared dreams and hope

-written by Aja Marneweck, Olifantland Creative Director

Ukwanda puppeteer Siphokazi with one of the first original designs by Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company
Hermanus and Herman with Adrian and a model elephant puppet at a workshop at the Net Vir Pret offices in Barrydale