Pattaya Daily News

22 September 2010 :: 16:09:11 pm 40005

Lampang’s Elephant Art Center Where Elephants Learn to Paint

Lampang is situated in the valley of the Wang River, east of Chiang Mai in the heart of Northern Thailand bordered by Khuntan Range on the west and the Pi Pan Num range on the east and the river which is a major tributary of the Chao Phraya, flows directly through the city.
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Although the city was originally developed on the north side of the river, it now focuses on the south side of the Wang River. Today, the downtown of Lampang has grown on the south east of the river along the main roads of the city which is surrounded by dense commercial and residential buildings.

Lampang is primarily known as Muang Roth Ma, (Horse Carriage City) as horse and carriages portray the people’s way of life. Lampang is at present the only town in Thailand where horse carriages are used as public transport.

Human settlement in Northern Thailand was small villages and towns which were classified in or of importance. The cultural center of the village was the Wat (temple). The village market provided all the local economic needs.

Lampang’s ambition to become an arts center was realised in January with the opening of the Lampang Arts Center in a compound of old teak houses with the main building being more than a hundred years old and a learning center for young people to keep alive the old traditions of arts and crafts.

The art that has actually put Lampang on the map, are the unique paintings produced by elephants from the National Elephant Conservation 35 km from the city.

Elephant painting began at the center in 1998 while under the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project where selected elephants were taught to paint, wielding brushes, gracefully and adeptly.

Paintings created by elephants have been sold at elite auction houses such as Christie’s in New York, where over US$92,000 was raised. A single canvas created by a three year old female calf fetched $1,500 in the UK.

An e-commerce website has now been open in conjunction with the National Geographic, www.novica.com to sell paintings by Thai elephants on line under the care of the National Elephant Institute.

For centuries, Asian elephants have been used for hauling logs in the forestry industry, but since deforestation and restrictions it has meant the loss of jobs, leaving many of them abandoned, mistreated and starved. An animal who can no longer earn its keep is no longer required.

Two Russian born artists based in the US learned of the plight of the Asian elephants in 1995 when they were engaged in an art project at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio which involved an African elephant named Renee.

For the past several years, they have been teaching domesticated elephants and their Mahouts (an elephants’ lifelong trainer) how to paint. In 1998 the two artists founded the Lampang Elephant Art Academy at the Elephant Conservation Center.

Approximately half the money from sales of the elephants’ paintings goes toward the elephant sanctuaries in South East Asia.

Myfanawy Evans

Photo : Internet   Category : Travel

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