In times of drought, danger and difficulty, the survival of an elephant herd depends on the instincts of its leader to know whether to fight or flee; run or walk, or to find those paths, invisible to us as humans, that lead the herd to water.
The Matriarch of a herd is so much more than just a leader – she is a vault of knowledge. She knows where to go when times are tough; how far she can push boundaries with other herds to make sure her herd drinks first, and she is, above all, a protector of the young and frail. So many times, we have observed the Matriarch stop her herd to wait for the very young or very old, or scold a naughty teenager for taking too much water or delaying the herd’s progress.
I think my great love of elephants came not from standing in the shadow of magnificent and tolerant hugely-tusked bulls just a few feet away, but rather from watching the Matriarchs and how they invest everything in their family.
The size of an elephant gives it its strength, but it is also its Achilles heel.
In times of oppressive heat and drought, every decision an elephant makes is critical – don’t drink enough water and you will die of thirst; stay too close to the water instead of moving to where the grazing is still good and you will die of hunger – in tough times, these are every-day decisions.There are many cases where elephants have been so desperate for a drink after being forced to search for food that was perhaps more than a day’s walk away, that they have drunk so much upon returning to water that they have perished. There are also many examples of those elephants who simply did not made it back to the water at all.
This work tells the tale of the Matriarch, those resilient, brilliant and resourceful female elephants who have successfully navigated nature’s feasts and famines for the better of their herd.
Classic: 118cm (46.5”) x 83 cm (33”)
Large: 146cm (57.5”) x 103 cm (40.5”)
Exhibition: 173cm (68”) x 122 cm (48”)
© Chris Fallows 2018