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Memory like an Elephant

Looking back on my childhood days, I recall my early day adventures in Africa. While I do not have a memory like an Elephant, some moments are imprinted in the mind forever!

The story goes that my family arrived in the small town of Kitale, Western Kenya, in 1950. It was 5 years after World War 2, the scars remaining. Hardly surprising!! It was to be our first Christmas under the warm sun of tropical Africa. It was a joyous time when all the neighbouring farmers got together at a nominated house for a raucous celebration.

I recall sitting outside in the garden under the shade of a large tree. I guess it was my quiet time to commune with nature. A short while later my brother came to check on me. Only to find a large Puffadder heading towards me with intent. I threw my soccer ball and by chance struck the snake which despatched it unceremoniously! It was both exciting and primitive growing up in this remote part of Africa. Water brought by cart and lighting was paraffin along with a ‘kuni’ (wood) stove.

The start of my creative mind

It was around the age of seven that my creative mind started to develop. This was to be the turning point in my life. I had a keen interest in making model aeroplanes under the guidance of a family friend. He seemed a ‘grumpy’ old man… Yet when it came to showing me his model aeroplanes, his whole demeanour changed, and his eyes would light up! One would often find me holding two pieces of balsa wood stuck together waiting for the glue to dry. It never dries when you want it to!!

I went on to do art throughout my school years. In fact, it was the only subject I got a GCE distinction in. My happiest times were out hunting, shooting, and fishing and I much preferred this over boring schoolwork.

Face to face with a herd of Elephants

African wildlife, in all forms, fascinated me growing up. Reptiles interested me and snakes were my passion. Soon after I turned 16, I decided it was time to get a motorbike so that I could go in search of snakes. I eventually found a matchless 350cc dispatch bike – what a banger!! Single-seat and no back suspension.

In 1965, to my parent’s horror, I undertook a 300-mile trip on a dirt road to Mombasa. Navigating the roads on my trusty motorbike, I came to an area known as ‘Matito Nde’. It was here that I encountered a large herd of elephants straddling the road. This was a problem!! Obviously, they did not like the ‘thump, thump’ sound coming towards them. Let alone the ‘beep, beep’ of my rubber hooter. I pressed on hoping they would move just enough for me to get through, and thankfully they did!

My passion ignited

I often wonder what those Elephants thought of our brief encounter. It is a day I will never forget, and it was here that I developed an immense passion for African Elephants. A passion that endures to this day.

Testament to this is the number of great beasts I have created in sculptures over the past 30 odd years. My latest work is of a very well-protected bull that frequents farmlands in North-Eastern Tanzania. (The location of this bull has not been made public for obvious reasons).

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