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Piano Recital by Nicharee Chandrasapt

Bring the Elephants Home’s “Trees for Elephants 2008” reaches its goal!

 

Piano Recital by Nicharee Chandrasapt

Jean-Pierre Kirkland
On September 10 there was yet another opportunity for us to hear one more of the emerging and talented pianists from Payap University’s School of Music. Nicharee, giving her first junior recital as part of her bachelor’s degree, delighted the small but appreciative audience with her chosen pieces of music ranging from Mozart through to Gershwin. This 22 year old pianist played the Mozart ‘Fantasia’ in C minor well, given that it has some quite difficult passages. What came through was her evident love for and understanding of this great composer – nowhere more so than in the lyrical opening adagio which she interpreted with care and tenderness. In her performance of two ‘Arabesques’ by Debussy, while the first seemed to miss the dreamy character of the piece, the second was played with considerable verve and dexterity and the energetic nature of the music came alive. She was similarly confident in her approach to Gershwin’s ‘Three Preludes,’ where she coped admirably with the jazzy rhythms and allowed the melodies to shine through. Her playing of the Granados ‘Andaluza’ was very good as Nicharee carefully balanced the differing moods effectively.
Two well known and much loved pieces by Chopin, were, however, the highlights of the evening. Her playing of the ‘Polonaise in A,’ known as the ‘Military,’ emphasized the driving force of the music, as she tackled the piece with considerable dexterity. In the ‘Grand Valse Brillante,’ although there was a very tricky moment in the middle, Nicharee overcame this with confidence and she gave us a performance that captured the flavour of the ballroom in all its sumptuousness and glamour. She afterwards told me her favourite composer was Chopin, and it showed. We were also treated to a short and lively encore, ‘Giddy Girl,’ by Ibert which was a very uplifting way to end the evening. Once more, this was an enjoyable recital and the university, David Wilson who is Nicharee’s teacher, and the young pianist herself are to be thanked for giving us such a pleasant experience.

 

Bring the Elephants Home’s “Trees for Elephants 2008” reaches its goal!

Planting trees to regain diversity in a forest which is 80% bamboo.

Elena Edwards
Traditionally, the elephant has been regarded as one of Thailand’s foremost cultural icons. In spite of this, there are now comparatively few elephants living in the wild, due to the loss of vast areas of their natural environment, the forest. Slash and burn agricultural practices have seriously depleted the biological diversity of forest areas, some of which are now 80% bamboo, resulting in forest animals leaving their natural environment to seek food on nearby plantations – a dangerous alternative. Both wild and domesticated elephant numbers have dropped sharply due to the food issue.

Antoinette with Faa Sai, the baby elephant she rescued (copyright Liesbeth Suiter).
Just a year ago, Antoinette van de Water from the Netherlands began her project entitled Trees for Elephants. Her goal was to plant 100,000 trees in deforested areas to re-establish the elephants’ natural habitat in a bid to halt their decline. Exactly one year later, the 100,000 trees have been planted. As a result of this tremendous achievement, Antoinette’s Netherlands-based foundation, Bring the Elephants Home, has made a giant step forward in improving the environmental and food issues for both wild and domesticated elephants. “Planting the 100,000th tree in the Elephant Nature Park was an incredible moment,” according to Antoinette, “as well as a great incentive to plant many more trees in the years to come. This is a wonderful start, but we have a long way to go to secure the future of Thai elephants.”
In addition to her four Thai partner organizations, the Elephant Nature Park, the Wild Elephant Rescue Fund, the Population and Community Development Association, (PDA), and the Elephant Conservation Network, at least 1,000 Thai and international volunteers were involved in planting the huge number of trees, thus forming a network of elephant protection. The toxin-free forests that are being created are the solution to massive deforestation. There, elephants can find their own food, have more space, the area is protected against further destruction; and the elephants themselves take care of maintaining the forest as included in everything they gobble up are seeds. An elephant that has plenty of space will never graze an area bald; it will always leave enough to allow the forest to grow back.
Several locations were involved, including Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary, which received 10,000 trees and the Khao Yai National Park with 25,000 trees. The Elephant Nature Park, in which volunteers are already planting, received 35,000 trees. Locations were chosen carefully; for example, at Khao Yai, a corridor of trees was formed, connecting two forests and expanding the habitat of the area’s wild elephants. Another project already underway involved the planting of 30,000 trees on an island near Baan Pai Noi in Isaan which will then be designated as an elephant sanctuary. Working together with the PDA and elephant-owning families in local villages, Antoinette’s scheme will generate income for the villagers and a natural habitat for their domesticated elephants, removing the need for them to be taken to towns to beg. By the end of this year, two street-begging elephants can return home; their mahouts will be able to start projects such as home-stay with a traditional mahout family and producing paper and fertiliser from elephant dung.
The concept of Bring the Elephants Home was formed whilst Antoinette was working as a volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park 6 years ago. In this sanctuary for elephants rescued and retired from an unnatural life of begging or performing, or from cruel treatment whilst working, she feel in love with a just rescued baby elephant whose mother had died. Two years later, she returned to volunteer again, this time with her project in mind; her foundation was registered in the Netherlands following that trip, and she began to plan and raise funds for an educational tour through Thailand. Her dream was to rescue two street elephants and use them to promote knowledge and correct care. Returning to Thailand, she found her two elephants at the elephant festival in Surin. Both the youngster, Dok Ngern, (8), and the adult, Sri Nuan, (47), were in a very poor and distressed state. Dok Ngern was in training for new tricks, scars and fresh wounds were obvious; she was also being used for begging. Sri Nuan had been shot in the eye with a slingshot and blinded, and her baby had been sold to a show when she was 8 months old, traumatising its mother. When recovered from their traumas and injuries, the two accompanied Antoinette on her educational tour from Bangkok up to the Elephant Nature Park, where the two elephants were given a home.
Antoinette has continued with her fund-raising, her work with elephants and other efforts, which include her documentary for Animal Planet TV by Nature Conservation Films, which won two Roscar Awards and was broadcast worldwide, and a documentary made by Dutch TV about her rescue of baby elephant Faa Sai. The Trees for Elephants project won Vodafone’s “World of Difference” award. The English language version of her book, describing her experiences with elephants, will be launched by Silkworm this December in Chiang Mai, having already been published in the Netherlands. To find out more, or to donate or help, please visit her website, www. bring-the-elephant-home.org.
Do you want to give Dok Ngern and Sri Nuan bananas yourself, or scrub them down in the river? On www. elephantnaturefoundation.org, you will find information on how to visit the Elephant Nature Park.