My Lord Buddha and the elephant

3 IMG_5842

“What is your name, my son?”


“My name is Philip, my Lord. Man calls me Tembo, the elephant.”

4 IMG_6496

4 IMG_6498

“Where do you come from, my son Philip? You do not look like your cousins from here.”


“I was born in Tsavo my Lord Buddha. In what Man calls Africa. My family was born here for thousands and thousands of years. Long before Man was born in Olduvai, in Tanzania, to the Southwest.”

5 IMG_6499

6 IMG_6631 copia

“And why are you here, Philip?” IMG_7266

“Man is decimating my people. Only a few years ago, we were millions, grazing peacefully in what was the cradle of mankind. Even the mighty lion stayed away from us. We bothered no-one and no-one bothered us. Those days are over. Now man comes at us with machine guns. Snares. Any kind of weapon. All for our tusks. They don’t even eat our meat. They live us rotting in the bush once they’ve sawed their precious ivory.”

7 IMG_6848-A


“Man can be kind, my son. But most are stupid. They have no control over their emotions. Now? Greed is taking over their world. Unless they start slaughtering each other again, and forget about you, there isn’t much that can be done.”


“So there is no hope, then?”



“There is always hope, my son Philip. Hope that kindness will prevail over madness. But madness is strong. So, for now, hide away. Leave the savannah, hide in the forest, and wait.”

I had very different plans for this post. The idea was to post a revisit of my Angkor Thom Buddhas separately from the elephant. I was working on shadows. Shadows are difficult. Almost as difficult as eyes. You may notice two techniques on the buddhas. First criss cross shadows, using a simple Sheaffer fountain pen with black ink. Since I started sketching again this pen has proved very good. The last two sketches are using a combination pen and China ink with brush. China ink is what we call it in French, I believe in English it is called India ink. China. India. All the same from a Westerner’s perspective, right? 🙂 Whatever it’s called it does provide for quite a different effect. I like both actually. Which do you prefer?

And Philip the elephant? The name and story just came to my head this morning at breakfast. I had planned something different about Tsavo and David Sheldrick the Chief warden there, in the 50’s and 60’s who initiated wildlife preservation. But the new story came rushing in, and as often, the stories that come flying into my head,  are complete to the word. I am just typing it for you. (Am I hearing voices? Maybe. I’ll get therapy). The reddish watercolour tone? The earth in Tsavo is red. Elephants cover themselves with dust, or earth to keep the bugs away. So the elephants in Tsavo are red.

I have done several posts on elephants before. Here a few links:

There are more posts. If you are interested in the topic, just type “elephant” in the search function.

To end on a not so hopeful note, Botswana had a growing population of elephants, close to 160,000, due to very strong protection measures for many years. Which proves it can be done. Now, the new president of Botswana, whatever his name is, has authorised hunting elephants. The article I read says he is close to the agricultural lobbies. Lobbies in freakin’ Botswana? Greed I tell you.


94 thoughts on “My Lord Buddha and the elephant

  1. I’m really moved by this Brian. Elephants are very special creatures, exhibiting very “human like” emotions , love, grief, rituals for birth and death. We must save the wildlife on our planet. We are guests here the same as they , they deserve to live their lives peacefully.

    • I thought you might be. Strange how the story “drifted” to my mind this morning. 🙂 The problem is population growth. Uneducated farmers. More than corrupt politicians in Africa. Corrupt ivory buyers in China and elsewhere… The list is endless.

  2. I am also hearing voices sometimes. A bit surreal. However to listen what old trees have to say a feasable option against digital stupidity. I hope your Lord will agree on this ambition, Biut now the dinner is waiting! Salve ….

    • En 89, quanle mur de Berlin est tombé, et les dictatures au Brésil et en Argentine, je m’étais dit: “Bon! On va enfin pouvoir travailler!” Mais dans les 5-10 dernières années, j’avoue que mes espoirs ont été déçus. Trente ans plus tard, la bêtise humaine semble de nouveau régner en maître partout. Et quand on a des enfants ou des petits-enfants jeunes… It is worrying. Very.

  3. “Man can be kind, my son. But most are stupid. They have no control over their emotions…” That’s right!….
    What a beautiful story, deep and meaningful…
    I really like your sketches and drawings … I prefer those in China Inc,… though, if I think better,.. I really like both of them.
    Great inspiration this morning!

    • I stole that from Paul McCartney. He said one day that he doesn’t “write” songs. They’re floating around and he pulls them down to the piano. Most my stories have come to me like that. Floating in the air.
      Glad you like both “interpretations” of the Buddha. I do too. Though I will experiment again with the China/India ink. 😉
      And the lack of control? I have thought that for many years. Based on empirical evidence. Sadly.
      If you have not read it, you might find that story interesting:

  4. I feel your pain about the elephants. Two days ago we travelled through Botswana, from Namibia. They should actually start looking better after all the thin donkeys, horses, boerbokke, sheep and cattle, grazing all over the place. Serious accidents happen all the time and if the animal isn’t dead, the vet may not put it out of its misery, because the owner has the last say. Sometimes an animal will lay alongside the road, for days, suffering from its injuries. I have seen horses and donkeys tethered together, scarcely able to move. Sometimes their front feet are bound together and they can only hop small distances in utter discomfort. The cattle are sometimes bundled in small trailers, unable to lift their heads. There is no respect for dogs and these mangy animals roam all over the place looking for food. People who care in such a way about domestic animals, can scarsely be expected to protect their wild life. Sorry, I am ranting and raving here on your blog, but I have had enough of people disregarding nature.,

    • Cross? That is so very “British” my dear. 😉 I understand your being ‘cross’. (My mother used that word sometimes). No worry.
      Glad you liked my sketches. I’m having a lot of fun. letting the hand draw almost by itself. Amazing.
      Bon week-end Dina.

    • I haave to confess I was really on the same wavelength as Philip. But the Buddha came out with the correct answer. “There is always hope”. (I always marvel at how my characters – however briefly they are on the stage, I mean the post – master their own dialogue. Sometimes I want them to say something else, and no. It doesn’t work. So… there is always hope.

  5. A heart-wrenching story. I heard last week that permission has been given to resume slaughtering the poor elephants. But as you say “There is always Hope”. It’s when we stop hoping that all is lost. I love your story and your clever sketches. It’s lovely to connect here with you.

    • Thank you. Likewise. Glad you liked the story and drawings. I will probably do few elephant drawings more, which will remind me to go looking for a place to donate…
      “Be seeing you.”

  6. Magnifiques dessins !!! Et un post de saison au regard des resultats des elections europeennes .. Unless the elephant decides not to hide but to go with the Greens 🙂

  7. Such a beautiful story Brian!

    Add the despicable trophy hunters to your list and I hear that Botswana lifted it’s ban on hunting elephants just days ago – it’s heart-wrenching and evil. In some countries, they’re staining tusks pink (not just elephants) to render these worthless to poachers and hunters. Is this still happening? If successful, why not everywhere?

    I prefer your last two using China ink and brush strokes.

    • Thanks.
      The pink tusks might be a good idea, but I’m sure if you polish the ivory, the colour goes away.
      And thanks for your opinion. I like all “executions”, but the china ink has an air of mystery the others don’t achieve…
      Buona sera signorina.

  8. I love how you tell the story with the various stages of your paintings’ completion. There’s something very gentle about this one, Brian. Make me sad, yet smile at the same time. Bises.

    • Yes. I can imagine the sad smile. The fate of elephants (and lions, and tigers, and rhinos and, and…) is heart-breaking.
      Obviously when I start drawing/painting I have no idea what the story will be. 🙂 In this case, it came when I put Buddha and the elephant side by side. An unlikely encounter.
      Bises back Julie.

  9. Love the sketches Brian. Alas, I write this after reading about Namibia auctioning some of its animals to pay for drought relief – we live in strange times. I don’t even think that fighting and killing amongst ourselves will stop the slaughter of Africa’s animals – they’re too valuable in some parts of the world, plus I remember visiting a park in Uganda that had barely recovered from the war when people killed the wildlife for food.
    Hope all’s well with you?

    • Thanks Lisa. I’m glad I retook drawing, almost by chance. Besides the pleasure of “working” the drawing, I have found another dimension of communication. Sounds “snobbish” maybe, but it’s opened up new horizons. (Your boat provides your new horizons all the time.) 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s