Rhino 2014 Biro drawing went up for auction at 'Chengeta Wildlife's first ever auction / fundraising events, at Hendersons Holyrood of Edinburgh and L'Escargot Soho, London this August. Not only was it thrilling to be invited to the fundraiser in my hometown of Edinburgh, but also to finally meet in person the amazing Chengeta team; ingenious co-founder Rory Young, brilliant photographer and senior instructor of Chengeta's anti-poaching team Nigel Kuhn, the inspirational Marjet Young Wessels who has dedicated her time to Chengeta since 2013 and the wonderful Susan McCabe who organised such a fantastic evening. It was also an honour to be asked to introduce Rory and Nigel during the fundraiser.
I have followed Rory and Chengeta Wildlife's journey since 2014 after I saw an ad on Twitter, posted by a Chengeta follower. The ad called for an artist to create an artwork highlighting Chengeta's exciting new approach to combatting poaching and protecting African wildlife. I answered the ad.
Together with Rory's phenomenal doctrine, what Chengeta Wildlife has achieved in four years, particularly protecting the beautiful desert elephants of Mali, is simply monumental.
Chengeta anti-poaching team including Rory Young second right, training wildlife rangers. Image credit: Nigel Kuhn Chengeta Wildlife Image top: Chengeta Wildlife Fundraiser, Hendersons Holyrood Edinburgh, 24 August 2018 Image credit: Chengeta Wildlife
Chengeta's work is the epitome of inspirational. Rory's insightful doctrine looks at the whole picture; the reasons for poaching, the demand, poverty, the impact not just on wildlife but communities, the gathering of intelligence which helps foil poachers before they reach wildlife; the tools, equipment and training wildlife rangers need, not only to stay safe but which helps with basic good practice such as mending wildlife park fences - the list could go on! Chengeta's success is so extraordinary that they now work with organisations such as the United Nations and the European Union as well as conservation organisations including WWF and the Wild Foundation.
Image credit: Rory Young Chengeta Wildlife
As a passionate animal lover since I was born, it is hard to comprehend that over the decades of my life, human destruction wreaked on the Earth's wildlife has continued on such a cataclysmic scale, despite our ever increasing knowledge of the dire consequences we are sowing. A dear friend and wildlife advocate David Shellenberger wrote:
To love wildlife means to suffer and to hope. The cruelty towards creatures saddens us while the growing appreciation of wildlife gives us hope.
It is all too easy to lose sight of hope when you love wildlife but there is always hope out there and Chengeta Wildlife is 'hope'.
Chengeta Fundraiser L'Escargot London. Image credit: Chengeta Wildlife
It fills me with great pride that there are so many compassionate humans who are prepared to give so much, including risking their lives to protect our planet's magnificent wildlife, which is of vital importance to all of us. It is also with heartfelt thanks to Chengeta's courageous wildlife protectors who are enabling the beautiful wildlife icons of Africa, to continue to share their fragile planet with us.
Rory and Nigel's talks about the work of Chengeta on that splendid evening in Edinburgh, were so fascinating, informative and moving that I wish I could have bottled them and set the contents free for others to hear! It was an illuminating event my husband I will never forget.
RHINO 2014 Biro drawing, Jane Lee McCracken
Rhino Biro drawing was a bit of a labour of love. It took weeks to research and two months to draw. My working method involves taking photographs of my TV screen while films are playing. This helps to capture images of poignant moments as well as movement. I then use the images as inspiration for my drawings. Although this artwork includes some of the most hunted animals on earth, which is why tigers and great white sharks are also featured, the essence of the piece is about Africa's wildlife icons including elephants, rhino and lions. Inspired by Sir David Attenborough's BBC series 'Africa', I ended up taking thousands of photographs of the films just to get the right images to work from.
Detail elephant calf and mother
There is sorrow in this piece. The little blind rhino calf Nicky who David Attenborough formed a special bond with. An elephant calf's life ebbing away as he succumbs to drought, while his mother watches over him and grieves for two days. The plight of the noble lion also staring at an uncertain future. But there is triumph and hopefully an over all sense of just how beautiful, unique and special these animals are. I made this drawing because I love animals, because a world without these creatures is unbearable to think of and because I believe in Chengeta.
Rhino drawing carefully wrapped and ready to ship, September 2018
I am beyond delighted that 'Rhino' 2014 sold in auction for £750 / $970. It's sometimes hard to say goodbye to a piece that you have lived and breathed for so long it has become part of you. But I have said my farewells to my rhinos and elephants and to my lions, now on their way to a new home, and I hope that as intended, this piece perhaps gives a voice to those who have no voice.
For more information about Chengeta Wildlife please visit www.chengetawildlife.org
With all the very best to the incredible Chengeta team, stay safe and thank you.