Perched upon a little stool and bathed in the rosy tones of a late East African afternoon, we find a man feverish with concentration and excitement. His head and shoulders remain quite still as his quick fingers grab, knead, pinch, pull and press the modelling clay on the table in front of him.
His brow is furrowed, the perspiration marks on his collar betray a hot day spent trundling across the famous Amobseli dust. His eyes lift from the table, up and up comprehending that now he has to tilt his head back to take in the full enormity of the magnificent bull elephant just meters from his spot. “When did he move?”
The Gentleman is Mark Coreth, a British born, Kenyan raised, artist with a deep, visible passion for the wilderness, wildlife and people of this remarkable region. The huge elephant is “One Ton”, a great tusker of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem. An elephant of such tremendous size, now so rarely seen, that he is probably one of just ten or twelve individuals on the planet that are equal to his grandeur. We’re here to join them both for a Gin n Tonic and I have to admit that, certainly for Jana and I, One Ton is massively upstaging the sculptor.
We are ensconced in the Chyulu Hills, a region of indescribable beauty where some several hundred volcanic cones and flows ridge the landscape to the north of Mt Kilimanjaro. For much of the year, under the constant watch of the rangers of The Big Life Foundation, One Ton calls this Kenyan Eden his home and it is, of course, his stately presence that has brought the artist here. It also happens to be home to our dear friends Richard & Tara Bonham and has become one of our favourite places on the planet, hence our chance to meet Mark and One Ton out in these sticks.
It is spellbinding to watch Mark work. We studied him conjuring up a sprinting warthog on a late afternoon at the waterhole hide beneath Ol Donyo lodge. The essence of the creature takes shape with unfeasible rapidity, he makes it look effortless. In this age of rapid fire shutter speeds falling on digital SLR cameras throughout the safari scene, I have to admit to finding the sight of a sculptor, searching, waiting, observing in an effort to create just one piece of wildlife art a very welcome and romantic alternative.
Having caught up with him on the telephone last week I’m delighted to report that Mark completed his study on One Ton and it featured with great success at his most recent exhibition with Sladmore Contemporary in London. The fantastic giant poses with his trunk rested nonchalantly over his massive left tusk in a posture often adopted by large bulls attempting to appear less threatening when approaching adult females and their breeding herds.
True to generous form, Mark has just auctioned a chance to spend seven nights on a sculpting safari through Kenya with him with all proceeds going towards Big Life Foundation and the Harry Dyer Burns Centre Fund. We expect this will serve as a pilot for similar future trips and intend to keep our fingers on that pulse, so do watch this space. Incidentally, between all of that he has also managed to locate and sculpt wild tigers in the forests of Siberia, a project & expedition he expects to develop and repeat in 2018. What a guy!