THE BALANCE OF FACTS
THE BALANCE OF FACTS
THE BALANCE OF FACTS
THE BALANCE OF FACTS
The Dreamtime, or the Dreaming, portrays the Aboriginal beliefs in spiritual existence. According to the tribes that first settled down in the continent, the Dreaming's roots date all the way back to the very begging of the creation of the world. The meaning and ideology of the term is generally not so well-understood by non-indigenous people as it is referred to as part of the culture of one of the early nations, which differs from modern perceptions.
The Spirits were the creators of everything. They made the land and the seas, the rocks and the plants, the sky and the earth. They were the higher power and the Australian Aborigines spent their lifetimes honoring this power, which guided their path and shaped their way of thinking. Not only creators of everything, which could be seen as well as felt, the Spirits also gave the Aborigines the Dreaming.
The time when everything started existing according to the initial Australians, was called the Dreaming. This is the foundation of the continent's culture. The origin of the Dreaming goes way back - 65 000 years back in time to be exact. The Ancestors of the nation shaped the land, forming some parts of it as sacred. The Aborigines were very careful and overprotective of those places, strongly believing in their significance.
The Australian Aborigines are known to have believed that the world didn't have any shape and was therefore empty. Darkness dominated, and life was simply asleep, but this changed when the creation began happening. After the Dreaming and the influence of the Spirits, objects began taking shapes and came to be. They created the four elements: water, earth, air and fire, as well as all the planets, the Sun and the Moon. The Dreaming therefore is a continuous process, which never ended. It is a small cosmos on its own, unifying the past, present and the future into one.
The Australian Aborigines' home riches so many vivid areas of the continent, including Fraser Island, Tasmania, Palm Island, Groote Eylandt and Mornington Island. The Aborigines had very strong believes in relation to the powers of the land, claiming that they never owned it - it rather owned them. The only reason they were able to call it their home is because they were looking after it and the land was taking care of the people in return.
Equally important to the Dreaming was the tribes' understandings of the disappearance of the Spirits. There came a time, when the creators of everything vanished from sight. Some of them were thought to have started living in sacred places, which is why the Aborigines perceived their homeland to be so sacred. The ancestors of today's Australians used to believe that the creators started living in rocks, in water holes and some went up to the sky to guide the people from above and keep them safe. Others transformed completely, taking the forms of the rain, the lightnings and the thunderstorms so they could be part of peoples' life.
Among the hundred's different Aboriginal languages, there isn't a word to describe 'time', because to them this simply doesn't exist. Dreaming and Dreamtime are used to replace it and summarize the ideologies of the Aborigines about everything they knew, everything they could see, feel and experience. This is why the Dreaming has such a vivid, and overwhelming meaning and has survived the obstacles of time. For the past couple thousand years, the Dreaming has built a rich cultural heritage that can identify a whole nation.
Read more about the Land, its connection to people and the way it has been perceived from different generations in the very first print issue of ORIGIN. The Land Issue covers varied topics, most of which remain related to cultural aspects of the land and its importance.
A lot of people travel to explore places and learn about them which is the message that ORIGIN wants to spread. With traveling, however, comes certain responsibilities that we should all be aware of. Elephants riding has become a popular way to explore locations by land. People have been doing this as part of their trips, mostly to places such as Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia and other parts of Asia. It is a common thing to see in certain places in Africa as well. We investigated the activity to explain why it is wrong and riding elephants should be banned everywhere.
Our first print issue studies culture and traveling represented through the land. We explored various location around the globe and learned what makes the land so valuable, which nations cherish it and how it helps us establish an identity. Traveling is important to us but traveling responsibly and making an impact is what we feel proud to stand behind. This is why riding elephants as a way of amusement should be reconsidered.
Let’s talk about the details. Elephants are very caring and extremely intelligent animals. It is a well-known fact that they never forget anything. When kept in captivity instead of spending their life in the wild, elephants die younger. Unlike in other species, this is common for the gentle giants and is often a result for stress.
Many African cultures respect elephants, believing they symbolize strength, loyalty and power. However, power can be a very tender concept. Elephant used as a tourism tool suffer from great pain daily. Elephants can be hurt very severely from the weight of carrying people and a trainer on their backs. The reason for this is the design of their spines. They have sharp protrusions, extending upwards from their spine instead of having round spinal disks. The protrusions and the tissue that serves to protect them can be harmed easily from weight pressure. Once a damage to their spine has been made, there is no going back and sometimes the harm can be irreversible. While this can’t be physically seen, the harm that the chairs can do to the elephants’ skin is. It is often the case that the chairs and the weight on their back can damage the animal’s skin and cause pain to their body. The chair, called Howdah, that gets attached to their backs, rubs on their skin and can cause blisters, which can sometimes get infected.
The training that elephants are required to go through when in captivity sometimes adopts a traditional Thai ‘phajaan’ or ‘crush’ technique. Explaining the technique would compare it to the animals’ spirits constantly and continuously being broken by the means of torture and social isolation. This is done in order to tame them. Elephants are wild animals, this is their nature as they are born in such conditions. Making them safe and obedient around people requires them to go through such training. As horrible as it sounds, in some places young elephants are taken away from their mothers to be abused with nails, bull hooks and bamboo sticks to make them obey rules, given by people. The animals often lack sleep and are starved to become submissive.
Actions from such nature are cruel and harmful as the technique is used to crash the animals’ spirit. Once wild and free, elephants become a source of tourism and entertainment. Nobody, who cared about sustainable tourism should ever ride an elephant.
In a sense, elephants have a human soul. They socialise and feel everything – pain, happiness, grief, sadness etc. They spend their life building families and finding friends. The largest land animals are a gift from nature and it is our responsibility to take special care of them and make sure they live according to their nature. Many animals, who are kept in captivity, are forced to live in isolation and carry heavy loads all day long, which is a wrong way to treat them. Their strength and power shouldn’t be abused but treated gently and celebrated by people. Elephants require minimal care to stay happy and healthy, which comes from giving them freedom to behave naturally and socialise. It is our responsibility to be culturally aware while traveling and make sure to spread awareness about the problem.
You can read the rest of the article as published in the LAND issue.
CELEBRATING WORLD ELEPHANT DAY
Today we honour World Elephant Day! Join us in protecting and admiring one of the greatest existing mammal species on Earth
Words: Emily Georgieva
Photography: Jayakody Anthana, Florian Van Duyn, Harshil Gudka, Parsing Eye, Isabella Juskova
12 August 2019
Today is all about elephants – the world’s gentle giants. These beautiful creatures are a symbol of the ideology that there is more to anything than meets the eye. Their size and magnificent appearance are completed by their famous high level of intelligence.
Unarguably among the biggest animals on the planet, elephants are known to be incredibly kind-hearted, generous and uncompromising when it comes to family. In their natural habitat they stick together and take care of their own. People haven’t always treated elephants with the same compassion.
In a world where more and more organisations shine light of the negative effects of poaching, ivory trade and elephant riding, we hope that humanity is beginning to learn from our cruelty and past mistakes. We need to act together to make sure that our giant friends are safe and taken care of.
There are about 700 000 African elephants left in the wild, a figure that has dropped down from a few million at the end of the last century. The statistic is strikingly low in Asia as well. There are only about 40 000 elephants recorded in the wild, whereas just a few decades ago the estimate reached about 100 000 of the animals roaming the wild.
Even more shocking is that around 15,000-20,000 elephants are kept in captivity. Judging by the tempo of the situation, there is a high possibility that elephants could become extinct within this century. Humanity stands at the edge of facing a concerning future, we have the power to prevent.
The numbers of elephants in the wild are so low mainly because of poaching and ivory trading. It is no secret that ever since ivory was deemed valuable due its rear and unique origin, ivory trading was turned into a money-making machine and hasn’t slowed down or stopped since. Ivory is an asset, used for many things – from chess boards to trading, manufacturing pianos, billiard balls and even ending up as part of electrical equipment for planes.
About 100 elephants in Africa are recorded to get killed because for their ivory. Thankfully in recent years more attention is paid to this environmentally threatening problem. We are a bit closer to making a change with each individual and foundation that addresses the problem and work towards creating a safer environment where elephants can live freely and safely in the wild. Eliminating ivory trading has been the goal of globally renowned wildlife organisations, but every individual has an obligation to contribute in helping the preservation of our giant friends.
Travelling and tourism hasn’t been in elephants’ favour. Popular locations across Thailand, Vietnam, India and Indonesia offer people to pay for elephant riding. This has a harmful impact on the animals to say the least. To obey people’s commands, elephants undergo a special process that turns them submissive through extreme isolation and harm on their mental and physical health. We are hopefully on the way to banning this practice, but to do so more people need to find out and stand against it. There are companies that ban elephant riding altogether. Interpid were the first global company to do this back in 2014 and more organisations have followed their example.
We urge our nomads to travel consciously and to enjoy elephants by observing them in their natural habitat rather than participate in riding them for the sake of the experience. Booking a safari trip is a great way to see the wild side of places such as South Africa and be closer to animals without harming them.
While today we take time to appreciate elephants, there are cultures that celebrate them all the time. The elephant is a centre figure in several cultures where they have a strong presence. In Asia the elephant is praised for their wisdom, intellect and strength – all admirable qualities. The only predator that elephants have are humans. Even by the order of the jungle, where everything comes together in a tender composition to preserve the balance of the wildness, elephants are respected by other animals.
In many ways, the gentle giants reflect human characteristics. They never forget, which is an impressive quality and their wisdom grows with time. In the Hindu religion's pantheon, Ganesha is one of the most praised and well-known gods, which represents a human-like body with an elephant head. This god has been adapted in the Japanese Buddhism as Kangiten or otherwise known as "Deva of Bliss". Again, elephant headed, the Japanese culture unifies male and female pair to demonstrate the strength that comes from unifying opposites.
In other cultures, especially strongly represented in certain parts of Europe, the elephant is a symbol of luck, prosperity and good fortune. Catania, Sicily was known as the City/State of the Elephant during medieval Arab rule.
It is believed that if you keep a small statue of an elephant in your home, it will bring wealth and luck to the place. Elephants have a superstitious meaning too. Using the term pink elephant would translate to seeing something that isn’t there or in other worlds blaming something in one’s imagination. The idiom ‘the elephant in the room’ refers to something obvious that people usually avoid noticing or talking about.
Elephants are loved by many. They are used in carnivals like the Esala Perahera in Sri Lanka and they’re praised through man-made structures such as the elephant temple in Kerela, India. Once you see an elephant up close, it all comes together, and you are left in awe.
This World Elephant Day we invite you to join us not just to appreciate them, but also to make sure we show our love for all the other days of the year. We are all part of that delicate balance in the wild and taking care of our own, alongside our gentle giant friends and all other lifeforms we coexist with, is a subtle art we should learn to perfect.