Review Blog

Nov 10 2014

Background to Elephants Have Wings by Susanne Gervay

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I was deeply inspired by my journey to India and South East Asia where I spoke in Delhi, Goa and Singapore. I experienced the Baha'i Temple in Delhi where I was part of a service under the open-air lotus roof of the temple. Five young people read from their holy books from five different faiths.
I also became aware of mystical stories. One was the parable of the blind men and the elephant which is part of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sufism and the search for truth. Another was in Hindu mythology, that during the monsoon rains which refresh the earth, the clouds are regarded as the wings of elephants.
I returned home imbued with the cultures and spirituality of India and Asia. On entering The Hughenden in Sydney, I faced, the exquisite kalaga tapestry, embroidered with gold and silver thread and beads, revealing elephants and Hindu and Buddhist stories.
Young people today are overwhelmed with media reports of terrorism and conflicts of faith. It was time to reach out and create a safe space for young people to explore want they want their world to be. Elephants Have Wings came out of all of this.
The Blake Prize is a non-denominational art and poetry prize, created after the war in 1951 by a Jesuit priest and a Jewish artist to explore art and spirit as a way towards inclusion. The Blake wanted to extend this vision to youth. They looked everywhere for an illustrated text for young people, when they discovered 'Elephants Have Wings' in draft form. In a first, the Blake Prize for Art and Poetry have endorsed a children's book. Elephants Have Wingscarries its logo.
What is Elephants Have Wings? At its heart, it is a peace book for young people and adults to share.
As the daughter of refugees, action for inclusion and peace is personal and a driving commitment to share with young people. I was privileged that Anna Pignataro, also the daughter of refugees, wanted to travel with me on this creation.
For those who go on the journey into Elephants Have Wings, it is an extraordinary illustrative picture book that has so many layers. A child can experience it as the journey on a mystical elephant to discover home. However there's so much more including multi-faith, inter faith, the meaning of the mandala, the tree of life. Each aspect of Elephants Have Wings is rich with story from the end papers which are the colours of enlightenment, to the circle of life. It is a book that I hope brings pleasure in its beauty but also questioning and search for harmony.
There is information on it here.
Susanne Gervay

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