“See big, think big, and do big to save our elephants” is the message that artist Arker Kyaw is sending through We Love Our Momos, a public art that aims to raise awareness of the elephant poaching and skinning crisis in Myanmar. Unveiled today in downtown Yangon, the project which features a herd of seven supersize paper mache elephants is Arker Kyaw’s showcase contribution to the VOICES FOR MOMOS campaign.
VOICES FOR MOMOS calls upon individuals and organisations across all sectors to use their voice to drive awareness and call for the end of illegal wildlife sales in Myanmar. As of August 2017, the figure of poached and skinned elephants is averaging one per week, due to a high demand for elephant body parts including skin, teeth, and tusks.
“My art is my voice. Through this creation I hope to show the big crisis we are facing. If we don’t act now and act big, we will lose all our wild elephants forever. We love our momos. We want to save them and see them in the future of our children,” said Arker Kyaw.
We Love Our Momos was inspired by traditional toy elephants that Myanmar children grew up with.
“Imported toys were expensive and we didn’t actually have them here in Myanmar so me and my brothers played with paper mache animals, and we loved elephants the most,” he said.
Arker Kyaw is attempting to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest paper mache sculpture ever made. The largest of his paper mache elephants measures 21ft (length) x 7ft (width) x 21ft (height), or almost three times the size of an average adult male elephant, which is between 7 to 9 feet’ tall.
(*The current Guinness World Record holder is a mariachi musician with a harp sculpture created in Mexico, which measures 11ft 4.57in (length) x 3ft 9.59in (width) x 12ft 6.43in (height)).
It took Arker Kyaw and a team that includes celebrated bamboo sculptor U Myint (Yote Lone Kabar) more than two months to bring the idea to life. Made of donated recycled newspapers and a robust woven-bamboo base, the parade of colossal colourful elephants creates a spectacular sight in front of the City Hall and Mahabandoola Park in the heart of Yangon.
“Big thank you to all the artists, U Myint and his Yote Lone Kabar team who worked so hard day and night, and to all those who donated old newspapers, contributed time and resources to make this possible. Together we can save our momos and this is just the beginning,” Arker Kyaw said.
We Love Our Momos is available for public viewing until 6 November.
Celebrities including film director Kyi Phyu Shin, singer Bunny Phyo, Miss Universe Myanmar Moe Set Wine, Miss Face of Beauty Myanmar Chuu Sitt Han, and meteorologist U Tun Lwin were spotted takingselfies with the giant elephants earlier today. More are expected in the coming days including YangonUnited Football Club stars Kyaw Ko Ko, Than Paing, and San Set Naing.
Myanmar Storytellers, an award-winning youth group founded in 2009 to preserve and use stories, particularly folktales, also came to support VOICES FOR MOMOS. They brought the elephant crisis to light using popular Burmese folktales about elephants.
Over the three-day exhibition, fair-trade shop Pomelo will be in the vicinity with elephant-themed handicrafts made by local social enterprise La Min. One of the products on sale in support of VOICES FOR MOMOS are miniatures of the paper mache elephants designed by Arker Kyaw.—GLNM