On a visit to Durban, a Johannesburg woman spotted the controversial elephants that have been in dispute for such a long time between artist Andries Botha and the ANC run eThekwini Municipality, who suddenly believed their commissioned elephants represented the IFP.
For Botha it became something much larger – freedom of speech, censorship, the fact that the artist was asked to change his vision from three elephants to the Big Five, even if that wasn’t the commission and the artworks were already in progress.
Either way, Pamela Cullinan felt an affinity and believed she should have one of these beautiful creatures for The Big Red Barn, which is in Olifantsfontein. She and Botha met and from the start, they knew they were on a similar ecological and mythical route. She thought she could save one of the Durban elephants but Botha decided he would like to make her one.
“I have to like the people I work for,” he says but he was also charmed by the notion of bringing elephants back to Olifantsfontein.
It’s much more than art for this sculptor. It’s about co-existence, tolerance and the space for wild animals that he’s battling for on an ecological level. “I want it all out there,” he says. But he is also certain that he and the Cullinans have a long road to travel. He’s excited by the space, the fact that ecologically they can send many messages forth into the world. “It will be a partnership of vision,” he insists. It’s not about making money either, it’s about putting money back into the environment.
He’s hoping the elephants will march across the world in many different forms, one of these journeys which will take place in Paris shortly. “We’re putting them up all over the show to get the message out there.”
But first he’s intent that the Cullinans take ownership of their elephant, even while he and his three apprentice sculptors Sbu Mazibuko, Ernest Ngcobo and Siya Madlala were still breathing life into the artwork. The first two studied art and the third has worked his way up the art route.
All of them are clocking experience which will hopefully be ploughed into their personal art futures. It’s been about passion and a sharp learning curve.
Finally though, the elephant has come home.
As for those who want to go out to play, its about taking it all in, watching this natural playpen develop and grow and making the space your own.
The team is always on the lookout for foodies, functionistas and fun activities to partner with them. The Red Barn lends itself to so many activities, from special to outdoor events, markets to arts and crafts, kiddies to corporates, restaurants to cooking classes.
They invite you to visit and let your imagination take flight. The barn is being turned into a kind of entertainment centre with a difference – and a healthy one at that. The Sunlawns Estate farm has been in the Cullinan family for generations.
It is a working farm, growing berries, salad leaves, vegetables and organic herbs.
What has become known as The Big Red Barn was the brainchild of Pamela, and the project has been brought to life by her children, Sean, Dominic and Victoria Cullinan and when you arrive at the family farm, it’s the first thing you see as you start looking out for the estate.