This work was inspired by footage from the recently released movie, The Elephant Queen, which follows a small family herd of elephants in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. The family are led by a magnificent matriarch, Athena, a rare big tusker. Camilla chose an endearing moment, where Athena leads the herd while her daughter follows quietly but is pestered to play by the rough and tumble youngster of the family- Wewe. Athena, is the epitome of calm, dignified, loving and practical leadership, earning the respect of her extended family.
Not content to just work from film footage with life work being central to her practice, Camilla travelled to Kenya in 2017 to study first hand by measuring elephant taxidermies and skeletons in the Nairobi National Museum. She then sculpted from life from her mobile studio, an adapted Land Rover, in various parks, including Tsavo and at elephant orphanages. She sought to capture a physical likeness and their unique characters, as well as the correct anatomy. Elephants take up the colour of the earth where they live by plastering themselves in mud which acts as a sunscreen and helps to get rid of parasites. In Tsavo where this herd lived, they take on the unmistakable red hue of the Tsavo earth and so Camilla has used a rust red patina for the bronze.
These intelligent gentle giants numbered around 26 million in Africa in 1800 but due to trophy hunting, poaching, human wildlife conflict and habitat loss, populations now stand at an estimated 415,000 with an estimated 25,000 poached annually. It is said that only around 25 big tusker bulls may remain in Africa, while the number of female big tuskers remaining is not publicised. Camilla will be using this work to assist in raising funds for elephant protection.