There is a small charity determined to make a difference in the fight against rhino poaching through community education and education at schools. What started out as a small seed in the hearts of a group of like-minded individuals has spawned into Rhino Art, which has satellite volunteers around the country.
The Rhino Art Eastern Cape group have to date reached around 7 000 children in their region alone, with their message of the need for rhino conservation.
This passionate group of volunteers was established in 2013 by renowned humanitarian and adventurer, Kingsley Holgate. Its focus has been on community education, across the country as well as with many neighbouring countries. The belief is that its message needs to be heard by everyone. The story starts on an expedition where Kingsley Holgate and his crew, touched by developments in rhino poaching, took it upon themselves to take pictures of a simple outline of a rhino to schools in the area and see what the children felt through the artworks they produced.
“What started as a simple piece of paper with a rhino on it has grown into a billboard for the children to express themselves on. The messages we have seen have emboldened us and made us realise that if we don’t pass the baton onto the youth – we have failed,” states Holgate. “Rhino Art is a way for the youth to deliver their message on conservation, show how they feel about it.
“In Swaziland, some of the messages we saw were so powerful. The children wrote down phrases like: ‘we don’t want to be home to the Big 4 – we want to be home to the Big 5’. This is the real adventure.”
The initiative is rolled out in a simple format. An experienced team delivers art papers together with art drawing materials to a school at least a week ahead of when judging will take place. This distribution coincides with classroom by classroom Rhino Conservation Education and a careful understanding of the Children’s Rhino Art Project Rules. On the day of the judging a 20 minute a side Soccer match is held at some of the schools, where the ‘Man of the Match’ Wins a bicycle and the best picture is awarded a prize and certificate.
“It’s about re-establishing the connection between people and the other animals and the environment which we share this planet with,” says Dave Pattle of Rhino Art Eastern Cape. “Rhino poaching is a manifestation of this disconnect and it is our duty to make as many people aware of it as possible.”
Because there are a high number of rhino in the Eastern Cape, the project’s efforts have extended into the region through the work of Dave Pattle and a group of volunteers. The Eastern Cape arm of Rhino Art strive to promote conservation amongst poorer communities that border the various reserves in the area. But resources are needed to continue the good work of the project, which has led to the charity art auction which will be hosted by Legacy Hotels & Resorts at its Kuzuko Lodge.
Several exceptionally talented artists have come forward in support of the event and guests looking to make a weekend of it will be delighted with campfire stories and tales of adventure by Kingsley Holgate and his famous talking stick.
“We have focused on children because they are tomorrow’s leaders. Art creates an emotional connection for the children, and emotion drives behavioural change. Taking children into a reserve and helping them reconnect with the natural world is deeply fulfilling,” says Pattle. “You can’t care for what you don’t know. The insight and messaging on the art work is a clear indication that the extent of the problem is known.
“We often return to schools we have been to before and you can see a shift in the thinking and the quality of the messages when we do. I have often heard concerned students stand up in front of their peers and express their outrage. This simply means what we are doing is working.”
“In order for us to leave a positive legacy in the areas in which our properties take pride of place, we need to do everything in our power to work with communities and bodies to protect our natural heritage,” says Robert Hodson, General Manager – Marketing at Legacy Hotels and Resorts. “It is with this that our property, Kuzuko Lodge will play host to the charity auction, to assist and support the efforts of Rhino Art Eastern Cape and foster a culture of conservation in the area and amongst the community.”