Russell High rallies for RHINOS

2013-06-13 00:00

USING bits of aluminium cans, broken mirrors and bottles, a team of Russell High School pupils is hard at work decorating a rhino sculpture that is set to join the Wildlands Conservation Trust’s Rhino Parade.

The innovative rhino conservation and fundraising campaign is based on the internationally renowned Cow Parade concept, and aims to highlight the devastating effect that poaching is having on South Africa’s rhino population.

According to a statement from the Department of Environmental Affairs, released on June 7, 394 rhino have been poached for their horns this year, including 35 in KwaZulu-Natal.

Several well-known people have joined the Wildlands campaign by endorsing a range of beautifully decorated rhinos. They include Sharks and Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie, whose rhino is now gracing the foyer of the Schlesinger Theatre at Michaelhouse in Balgowan.

Other rhino ambassadors are former Proteas bowler Shaun Pollock, musician Ray Phiri, Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos, Freshlyground, award-winning actress Nthati Moshesh, and Lee Swan, the first African-born woman to reach the magnetic North Pole on foot.

Lauren Laing, brand and communications manager for Wildlands Conservation Trust, said the organisation hopes that, through the Rhino Parade, the trust will be able to create public awareness about the crisis, and raise money to support rhino-conservation efforts.

Speaking about the trust’s new project to decorate a three-quarter life-size rhino sculpture, she said: “Our partnership with Russell High School in Pietermaritzburg, which is creating a unique rhino sculpture called Isibindi [which means courage], is very special, as it involves very talented, young artistic talent. It also spreads awareness around the rhino-poaching crisis to the youth.

“The project is close to the hearts of those passionate about conservation as it is being designed to honour the brave souls — field rangers — who risk their lives every day to stand between bullets and our rhino.

“The ideas the girls have come up with are truly impressive and heart-warming.”

The Russell High pupils were given 24 hours to come up with design ideas for Isibindi.

Visual arts teacher Alana Leigh said: “We got 12 submissions, so I knew they were the girls for the project. Their efforts showed me that they have what it takes to see the project through.”

After examining all the ideas and discussing them with the pupils, the school presented its design concept, which is based around the idea of a war elephant covered in armour, to Wildlands.

Explaining why they had decided on this particular look, Nomfundo Mkhwandzi, one of the girls involved in decorating Isibindi, said: “The rhino is fighting for its survival and so we thought our rhino needed something to protect it.”

The design also incorporates a necklace, the design of which is based on the necklaces that King Shaka presented to his bravest warriors, and a variety of South African medals for bravery.

Leigh said the pupils — who will be using recycled glass and aluminium, clay and even beads in their design — are being given the opportunity to experiment.

“It’s going to be lots of trial and error, but the girls are not scared of trying new things,” Leigh said, adding that it is important that the materials they use are built to last, as Wildlands wants the rhino to be on display for the next 20 years.

Russell High School has a reputation for transforming recycled materials into beautiful objects.

In the past, its pupils have created fashionable clothing, foil mosaics and glitter mosaics, and other artworks using items that most people view as rubbish.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Leigh said. “We don’t have a big budget for arts, so we get a lot of our material from the Wildlands recycling centre.”

Asked why she and her fellow pupils — Nomfundo, Noxolo Makathini, Silungile Dludu, Peaceful Khumalo, Sanilisiwe Khumalo, Yamkela Madibi, Nonjabulo Khumalo, Malwande Guliwe, Sanele Mbanjwa, Nonjabulo Shezi, Sphumelele Hadebe, Malwande Bhengu and Nonkululeko Khumalo — believe it is important to be involved in the project, Ashley Voges said: “We are passionate about our school and we want to show everyone that we also have a passion for rhinos.

“We want to ensure the survival of the species so that in the future, people will be able to see them in the wild.”

When the pupils complete the project, Isibindi will join the other sculptures in the Rhino Parade, which will use the money raised to fund conservation efforts.

Laing said: “Wildlands is working closely with like-minded organisations to find a long-term solution to curb the rhino-poaching crisis.

“Our partners and ourselves have developed four strategies that will provide a co-ordinated and effective response to the crisis we face.

“These include: supporting the establishment of a network of non-governmental organisations working together to stop the poaching, piloting innovative GSM-based tracking technology, the development of a complementary helicopter surveillance system, and support for investigations and prosecutions.”

• To find out more about the Rhino Parade project, go to

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