IT IS intended to be a new symbol of the rich industrial heritage of Glasgow and a permanent legacy of its hosting of the Commonwealth Games.
A life-size elephant – made out of recycled scrap from Glasgow-built locomotives – is about to take pride of place in one of the city’s main parks.
It has that connection with parts of the Commonwealth
The 11-tonne creation will be installed on the site of the great British Empire Exhibition, which Glasgow staged in 1938.
Kenny Hunter, one of the nation’s leading sculptors, has spent two years working on the elephant, which will gaze down towards Govan and the Clyde, the city’s former industrial heartland, from Bellahouston Park.
It was commissioned by House for an Art Lover, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed gallery, after an approach from Hunter, whose firefighters statue stands outside Central Station.
The elephant, which is due to be unveiled on Friday, started life as a foot-long model, then became a 25-piece plaster mould before the final piece was eventually cast at an iron foundry in Yorkshire.
The elephant is intended to reflect Glasgow’s role as a “workshop of the world,” with the iron used for the final casting featuring scrap sections of locomotives sent from Glasgow to India and South Africa.
Hunter said he hopes the sculpture will come to represent the dramatic changes Glasgow and Scotland have undergone since the late 1930s, as well as celebrating its modern-day links with the Commonwealth.
Hunter said he also chose the elephant for the project because of its roles as a form of transport and as a working animal. He worked with experts at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum to source pieces from locomotives initially manufactured in the city’s Springburn area.
Hunter said: “The original idea I took to House for an Art Lover was to source scrap parts of Glasgow-built locomotives and melt them down into the cast of an Indian elephant on the exact site of the great Empire Exhibition, which was held at Bellahouston in 1938.
“There is an obvious transformation tale in looking at where we were then and where we are now. That was the year before the Second World War broke out – the British Empire was intact and in its pomp.
“We’re now looking at a very different landscape at every level in Scotland – social, cultural and political.
“Elephants are so synonymous with memory, so it just felt like the right image. It also has that obvious connection with parts of the Commonwealth like South Africa and India.”
The entire project – entitled “Elephant For Glasgow” – is inspired by a purchase made by Hunter decades ago at the former Paddy’s Market, which ran for almost 200 years before being shut down by the city council six years ago.
Hunter added: “When I was a student in the 1980s I picked up an aluminium victory bell, which had the heads of Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill cast into the side of it. It was cast from shot-down German aircraft.
“I was fascinated with the idea that you can take one solid object and turn it into another. I like the whole idea that metal things can transform, that nothing is forever. I got a lot of help from the transport museum to source the scrap parts, as they had re-imported Glasgow-built locomotives for their displays. There were various bits and pieces that they didn’t need.
“A lot of people like elephants – there is just something about them that people respond to. But I also hope they get the narrative about Glasgow’s social history and industrial heritage.”