17-19 February 2017, Sayabouly, Laos
With the Laos Elephant Festival coming up, Melody Kemp revisits 32 Souls, a sensitive portrayal of the gentle giant, under threat from Man the greatest predator of all time.
”In 2007, Sebastien Duffilot, graphic designer and cofounder of ElefantAsia, cohered a collection of dilettantes and creative minds around the concept of elephants. Some of us had attended the very first Elephant Festival in Hongsa, arguably home to Laos’s mahout culture. Our own wonder translated into great images and the words that bound them into a story. We all wanted to bring that delight before the public; the frisson that comes with being around such a surprisingly huge yet fragile creature and pride to the nation that hosts them.
But to contemplate a world without elephants.
The name of the book stems from the Lao belief that elephants and humans have 32 kwan, or life spirits, best translated as souls. Each kwan is a guardian of a bodily system and easily disturbed by life’s erratic rhythms.
But it’s is not the loss of kwan that is risking elephant survival, it’s the arrogance of the wealthy for whom owning a piece of nature gives them status, rather than indicating a paucity of understanding the complexity of human interdependence with nature. If they die, we die.
Laos was nicknamed the Land of a Million Elephants, not because the nation’s founder counted each one, but because he hoped the country would have the same strength and grandeur. So with Lao herds falling in number, what fate awaits the nation?”
32 Souls is available from Monument Books and from the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury. All money goes to supporting elephant conservation and research.”
Bus/minivan: Daily from theSouthern Bus terminal (about 8 hours)
Tel: +85620 5597 9999