An elephant that paints, his keeper and a conservation artist team up to create The Rama Exhibition, a voice for endangered species.
About this project
By Rama the Elephant and Calley O’Neill with Jeb Barsh
THE RAMA EXHIBITION is the culmination of a groundbreaking interspecies collaboration by visionary conservation artist Calley O’Neill, her painting partner of 5 years, RAMA the ELEPHANT, Oregon Zoo Keeper Jeb Barsh, and a team of extraordinary wildlife photographers.
We are thrilled to announce that after ten years of dedicated, ongoing work, THE RAMA EXHIBITION has been selected to premiere at the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) World Conservation Congress in September, 2016 at the Hawai’i Convention Center in Honolulu, Hawai’i. One hundred seventy nations will unite to work together to conserve nature and create a healthy abundant future.
The IUCN World Conservation Congress has been held every four years for seventy years, and this is the first time the United States has ever been selected as the host country. WE WILL BE THERE IN A SPECTACULAR AND HUGE GALLERY outside the general assembly, where over 8,000 delegates will convene! This is way beyond the BIG YES! we have been waiting for!
The first of its kind, the international travelling exhibition highlights the plight of endangered species and ecosystems around the world with the hope of stimulating a profound inner experience of love for wildlife, and for all life.
Each painting seeks to directly communicate as a visual prayer or meditation to every person who sees it. The exhibition is designed to evoke strong positive feelings that will generate the actions needed for the conservation and restoration of nature. This will require no less than all of us working together to love and protect where we live.
The most important thing we can do is realize that everything we do matters. Jane Goodall
THE RAMA EXHIBITION, AN INTERSPECIES JOURNEY OF ART AND SOUL FOR THE EARTH is a series of large-scale wildlife thangka paintings born of an exciting artistic collaboration between visionary conservation artist Calley O’Neill and the late RAMA, Oregon Zoo’s famed Artist Elephant, with Jeb Barsh, the innovative keeper who choreographed their creative contact.
These leading edge paintings fuse the worlds of art and ecology to ignite awareness and action. The 5′ by 7′ dynamic paintings were inspired by traditional illuminated manuscript paintings and Tibetan Buddhist thangkas that were used as teaching tools, inspiration, and meditation aids. The Tibetan word thangka means recorded message.
These paintings communicate a deep message to each person who sees them that requires the viewer to stop the conversation in the head long enough to dive in and feel what is being said.
This art work is a labor of love ~ a message from the heart, celebrating the wonders of nature and the Nature’s Heroes that work to protect them. The exhibition is a clarion call to wake up and work together to preserve biodiversity, the rich diversity of species that sustain us. The artwork speaks on behalf of those who cannot speak.
To our knowledge this interspecies exhibition will be the first of its kind, and we enthusiastically invite you to be our honored patron! Please be a part of building our world premiere and helping to take The Rama Exhibition around the world. We need your help in funding the preparation and installation of our world premiere, and beyond that, in funding the exhibition’s completion in preparation for world travel. Additionally, we’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.
Our goal is to ignite Biophilia (the love of nature) into action.
Please visit http://www.TheRamaExhibition.org to learn more, be amazed, and learn how you can get involved. If you love this work, please support our Kickstarter, spread the word around the world, and recommend us to an exhibition venue or museum in your area.
• With $7,500 we will meet our bottom-line budget to get Calley and the first 21 paintings to Honolulu, and craft the 21 10′ tall bamboo stands before our grand opening in September 2016 at THE RAMA EXHIBITION WORLD PREMIERE AT THE IUCN WORLD CONSERVATION CONGRESS.
• With $10,000, we will be able to have three assistants at the Congress to facilitate a highly complex installation, rent some native plants needed to create a living environment, ship the wildlife prayer wheels, communicate with as many of the worldwide delegates as possible, and break down and ship the exhibition at the close of the congress. We will also be able to fulfill the IUCN request of hosting two coffee hours for delegates in The Rama Exhibition space outside the General Assembly.
• With $15,000, we will be able to accomplish all of the above, purchase the needed solar fans, and print large format, eco-friendly museum quality posters.
• With $36,000, we will be able to cover all of our expenses, rent the full array of native and Hawaiian ethnobotanical plants, create professional graphics, document the exhibition in photography and video in order to move forward, partially reimburse Calley for out-of-pocket expenses invested over 10 years, and partially pay her dedicated assistant, Julia Fairchild for some of her time volunteered over the past 8 years.
With $136,000, we will be able to create the 34 remaining GROTTO OF HOPE stained glass species windows (42″ square) with wooden frames, LED sheet back lighting, display/storage/shipping carriers, the structure for the darkened guided journey space, along with the bioacoustical soundscape and guided journey audio, a critical introductory part of the exhibition.
With $150,000, we will be able to finish the initial design work and construct the ANIMAL WHEEL, the interactive part of the exhibition in collaboration with Phillip Jones, as well as complete the remaining 16 of the 36 wildlife thanks with support.
With more funding, work on the interspecies exhibition ~THE ROOT PEOPLE: PRESERVING INDIGENOUS CULTURE AND WISDOM will begin.
PURPOSE & MISSION STATEMENT: THE RAMA EXHIBITION is a groundbreaking interspecies immersive experience designed to change the way we view ourselves, our relationship to nature, and to ignite a million actions to preserve and restore nature wherever we live.
Active love wherever you live is the answer.
WE ASK: Can we love the children, life on Earth, and our own lives enough to make the changes?
NAKED TRUTH – THE FACTS:
BIODIVERSITY is the diversity of life forms on Earth that sustain life, and create the stability in ecosystems. BIOPHILIA is a term coined by one of my heroes, famed Harvard professor and biologist, Dr. Edward O. Wilson, who defines this innate feeling as the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.
- Right now a massive extinction of living species is taking place on Earth. This crisis is of an order of magnitude not seen since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Scientists believe that this is not an act of nature, but an impending human calamity that can be mitigated. That is both good news and an extraordinary opportunity.
- According to the best estimates of ongoing biodiversity research, without significant changes in our environmental practices, half of the Earth’s plant and animal species may be driven to extinction or reduced to ‘the living dead’ (critical endangerment) by the end of the century.
- The oceans, which cover over two-thirds of our planet, contain over 80% of all life on Earth with a rich biodiversity that is unparalleled on land. We are changing the very chemistry of the sea, and wiping out whole phyla through climate change, air, water and plastics pollution, acidification, and overfishing.
- Scientists, such as physicist Fritoj Capra and Edward O. Wilson, warn that by continuing to disrupt the Earth’s symbiotic living systems, humans place their own survival at great risk.
- 7.4 billion strong, humans are the greatest geophysical force on Earth.
If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Terry Tempest Williams
ART IS POWER.
R. A. M. A. Real Art Means Action.
Deep ecological awareness is akin to a spiritual or religious experience. It provides a direct feelling of connection, the very foundation of health, happiness, and longevity. Sacred art uplifts the mind toward the Great Mystery. THE RAMA EXHIBITION has the power to open hearts, minds, and limiting perspectives, and inspire ecologically sensitive ways to live a good life.
Hope is believing in spite of the evidence. Michael Toms, Founder, New Dimensions Radio
- Our goal is to move people to take an active part in our greatest task… the conservation of nature, and the creation of a healthy future for (as Bill McDonough says) the children of all species for all time.
- For positive change to occur we must understand and feel both the loss and the possibility of renewal personally. THE RAMA EXHIBITION will provide an experience of our innate love of biodiversity, the species and communities that keep nature healthy and balanced.
- Current neuroscience research provides proof positive that art affects people profoundly. Humans were born with an innate ability to be moved by art. A single painting can change the world! Our goal is an immediate deep emotional response within every person who experiences THE RAMA EXHIBITION.
- Through deepening our love and quieting the static in our busy minds, we can imagine, work toward, and create a healthy future for ourselves, and all the children.
- Everyone who pauses long enough to really see these paintings is deeply moved, and, quite simply amazed. “An elephant did this?!”
EVERYTHING MATTERS! Everything we think, say, and do matters.
EVERYTHING MATTERS: We, Earth’s dominant species, have everything we need to restore the living systems that sustain us, and shift to abundant, sustainable lifestyles through everything we think, say, do, buy, and refuse to buy. In so doing, we will generate enough noble work to encompass and support everyone’s energy, innate altruistic drive, and creativity.
A solution at the economic and technological level can be found only if we undergo…an inner change of heart… a change in lifestyle free of our unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. -Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Joint Declaration on Articulating a Code of Environmental Ethics, 2002
THE TEAM: Meet Calley, Rama and Jeb, the wildly creative trio at the heart of THE RAMA EXHIBITION and hear the story of how this all began. Meet Tom Hohl, Master Wood Turner, priceless assistant, Julia Fairchild, and visit www.TheRamaExhibition.
RAMA: Son of the famous elephants, Packy and Rosy, RAMA was born on April Fool’s Day, April 1,1983 at the Oregon Zoo. In his early years, the importance of enrichment (emotional and intellectual stimulation) was understood for female elephants, but not as much for bulls. Thus Rama’s greatest gifts were not revealed until 2002. While watching his children play with paint at a party, keeper Jeb Barsh got the idea to train Rama to paint.
Rama showed exceptional interest in spray and brush painting and these skills became the opportunity for him to thrive. He evolved into a creative force to be reckoned with – a phenomenon! In the days when he and Jeb were painting every Sunday, his paintings sold before they had time to dry. Rama’s works generated more than $100,000 in sales and his two art shows sold out!
The impact of his work has been life changing for an untold number of people.
CALLEY O’NEILL: Calley O’Neill is a highly respected conservation and cultural artist, muralist, visionary designer and social ecologist from the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Journalists have described her art, which spans four decades, as ethno-visionary, dynamic, symbolic, and breathtaking, and Calley as ‘a way-finder’, ‘a life giving force’ and ‘a force of nature.’
“In a very real way, this is how I have transformed my sadness and outrage at the desecration of nature and indigenous culture into positive action.”
JEB BARSH: Innovative Oregon Zookeeper who taught Rama to paint: “Rama was a remarkable animal. It was a great pleasure to work with him. I remain his greatest fan and am honored to have come to know him as a partner. His utter abandon and cooperation inspired all that were lucky enough to witness him work. He brightened upon the sight of us. We choreographed and he cooperated with enthusiasm. He thrust himself toward the outcome, in faith, so it seems to me, and his paint exploded on the canvas – a dance.”
Rama became a successful artist! I searched for purpose for Rama and found it in this work. We were human and elephant engaged in a joyous transfer of energy that unexpectedly produced a unique body of work. From the brink of extinction, he joins trunk to hand to canvas to you – to inspire all to act upon their innate instinct to nurture each other and all creatures of this planet.
DR. THOMAS HOHL, MASTER WOOD TURNER and retired Seattle oral and maxillofacial surgeon emeritus, hand turned the beautiful wildlife prayer wheels. Tom’s lifelong interest in animals and nature, especially bird life has now been integrated into his passion and mastery of wood turning. Lama Zopa Rinpoche blessed and consecrated Tom’s first wheel for the giraffes, which was based on precise research of the requirements and dimensions of traditional Tibetan prayer wheels. The Lama states that turning a prayer wheel with full intention is among the most powerful of all meditations. We ask you to spin these wheels with prayers and best wishes for all life.
JULIA FAIRCHILD is a self-taught and sensitive web master, and the esteemed web weaver, research and administrative assistant, official seamstress, integrative healer, and more for THE RAMA EXHIBITION and The Rama Team. Julia has been volunteering her time for this work for eight years, and has been working seven days a week (ongoing) to assist Calley in completing the painting borders and the sacred adornments in preparation for the IUCN World Premiere.
HOW DID THIS COLLABORATION BEGIN? In the summer of 2006, Calley was drawn to bring her children to Portland, Oregon because of its reputation as a vital green city. Surprised to be deeply moved by her experience at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, she was compelled to visit the Oregon Zoo. As destiny would have it, her son Noa called to her to run to the elephant barn, and they arrived at the barn at the exact moment when Rama and Jeb began the Sunday painting demonstration.
As soon as Rama started painting, Calley’s heart began to pound, her mind cleared, her awareness blasted open, and she knew in her bones that she had to work with him! It was a quantum insight! The direction of her life shifted dramatically as a compelling vision of a collaboration and touring exhibition on endangered species that would reach millions of people sprang forth. One powerful moment that changed the course of one life…or maybe millions.
After Rama’s show, Calley offered an on-the-spot proposal to create an exhibition to help build an eye-opening, heart expanding awareness for the Earth and her inhabitants. Many impassioned letters and a year later, Calley arrived at the Oregon Zoo as a project volunteer. Thus began the wildest, most meaningful creative experience of her life.
With the keepers’ support, Rama, Jeb and Calley painted together each July for five years. Rama died in the spring of 2015, and Calley continues the work year round.
Visit THE RAMA EXHIBITION
Risks and challenges
After THE RAMA EXHIBITION WORLD PREMIERE is successfully funded, we may find ourselves in a whirlwind of success, and we certainly hope for this challenge. There is a huge unknown in terms of public and media response to this premiere.
We are qualified to overcome this significant challenge because of the wealth, talent, and diverse experience of friends and ohana we have on the Big island, who have volunteered to help us soar.
When it rains, it pours…At the close of the World Conservation Congress, Calley will be installing her Pukalani School Mural on Maui. The good news is that the entire stained glass mural is in the final stage of construction and will be completed prior to the congress.
We are an independent team and require no premarket review by an outside agency prior to disbursement of funds.