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Bronze Sculpture of Nicky Raises £10,700 for Rhino Security in Honour and Memory of Anna Merz

June 20, 2013

The first two editions of the bronze portrait of Nicky, Lewa’s famous blind rhino calf, who featured with Sir David Attenborough in the BBC Africa series, led the auction results at the Tusk Trust dinner for the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy  on 25th April at the Guildhall. 

Since the dinner another two sold immediately and a collector of Camilla’s work made a further donation taking the total raised to £10,700, with more funds forthcoming once the orders are delivered.

The funds raised by the bronze will go towards equipment, training and a reward system for the rhino monitors on Lewa, without whom Nicky would not have survived, and a cause rhino conservationist Anna Merz specified that she wanted to support, soon before her death. 

"The extraordinary success of the recent auction of Camilla Le May’s bronze, ‘Nicky’, Lewa’s blind black rhino calf, will provide vital funding to support the training and operations of our rhino monitoring teams, whose daily work ensures that we maintain a detailed picture of the activities of each and every rhino on Lewa. In these challenging times where rhino horn is in such high demand and killing of these iconic creatures a daily occurrence on the African continent, support from artists such as Camilla is deeply appreciated".
Mike Watson, Lewa's CEO

Camilla has now offered three of the remaining five editions first and exclusively to our supporters before the final two editions are handed to the Rountree Tryon Galleries in London for her solo show in the autumn. From these 3 editions, 20% will go back to funding rhino security on Lewa.  

David Attenborough kindly wrote a letter in support of this initiative and the original letter went to the winning bidder for the first edition of this work at the Friends of Lewa dinner. He said:
“It was a delight to meet little Nicky the rhino calf. He was born with severe eye problems but there is a good chance that in the care of the Lewa Conservancy, he will lead a happy and protected life. The future of his relatives out in the wild however is full of danger. Unless they are rigorously protected, poachers will slaughter them in order to sell their horns. But good people in Lewa are guarding them and whoever buys Nicky’s bronze portrait will be significantly contributing to their protection. Thank you.”
Sir David Attenborough

The story of the bronze

Camilla first heard about Nicky while staying with Anna Merz on Lewa last autumn and immediately wondered if she might sculpt him and the work be used to raise funds for Nicky and other rhinos on Lewa. 

Anna Merz was a founding patron of Lewa and funded the initial set up of the sanctuary for rhinos and it was due to her vision and ongoing support that Lewa is what it is today. Tragically Anna died suddenly on the 4th of April 2013 and Camilla then decided to donate this work in memory of Anna, without whom it would never have come about. 

Anna and Camilla became great friends about 13 years ago when Camilla lived on a neighbouring game farm to Anna, in the Waterberg, South Africa. (It was here that Camilla was teaching sculpture to children through The Nedcor art in the Community Project, which she had set up, and was sculpting the wildlife.)  Anna invited Camilla to stay with her on Lewa every year after Camilla’s first visit in 2009. 

Camilla says: 
“Anna was a dear friend and a great support, giving constant encouragement and buying I think six of my works, over the years. She will be hugely missed… Anna was understandably terribly upset and angry about the present escalation in the poaching crisis and it was so sad for her to witness this in her last years after all she had done.”  

In Anna’s last letter to Camilla (which arrived after her death, delayed in the post), she wrote how delighted she was with the sculpture and said that:
“ I think the baby rhino looks lovely” and on David Attenborough’s BBC coverage, she commented, “..if anyone can create good publicity for rhinos it is him and by heavens do they need it in this total crisis situation…”

Camilla had spent some eight years living, sculpting, teaching and travelling in Southern Africa but it was on her first visit to Lewa and on camel safari with Anna Merz, Charlie Wheeler, Fuzz and Bimbi Dyer to the North of Lewa, that she was astounded by the beauty of Lewa and the north and struggled to drag herself away back to the UK.  

She says: 
“I could absolutely understand Anna's passion to save this breathtakingly beautiful area and its wildlife. My desire to help to this end has been amplified by Anna’s sudden death and this awful loss. As others, I am determined to channel my sadness and loss into securing Anna’s legacy and to do my utmost to make sure that Anna’s work is continued. I too am incensed by man’s destruction and abuse of wildlife and wilderness areas, which are becoming forever diminished. I will continue, through my work, to support wildlife and conservation of wilderness areas, without which I would have limited inspiration to go on. I am happy sculpting horses and dogs but my true inspiration is when sculpting in Africa!”

Process of making the work and experiences with Nicky    

"In order to decide how best to capture his character I spent considerable time with Nicky, getting to know him. What struck me was that despite being blind he often goes off on his own, ahead of his keepers, seemingly without fear, and is clearly a determined, stubborn and cheeky little chap, full of character and resilience. I wanted to convey this in my work, so chose to sculpt him in a typical pose walking purposefully and fearlessly, as if on a mission, using his ears to listen to all around him.  I sculpted his torn right ear, as it is, which reminds us of his precarious start when he was attacked by a jackal, before Lewa rescued him.  

A younger orphaned baby rhino, from Ol Pejeta Conservancy, whose mother was slaughtered for her horn by poachers, has recently joined Nicky. They are now the best of friends and it is an extraordinary situation, as I am told the younger rhino, named Hope, follows Nicky, as despite his being blind, he now knows his way around Mike and Sarah’s garden and where every obstacle is!

As I had not sculpted a rhino before it entailed much careful observation and measuring. To start with Nicky was a little jumpy but as I spent more time with him, he became used to my measuring with calipers and did not even flinch. He showed his mischievous nature early on when, excited by elephants making a racket nearby, he started tanking around and I am not certain if I became his target or whether it was an accident but he did know where I was and charged straight at me, and my table and chair went for six!  Luckily I just managed in one fell swoop to grab the sculpture and jump aside out of his way! He then headed for his keeper and continued tanking around. He would make a habit of trying to overturn my table, normally at a slower pace from then on, hooking his little stump of a horn under the edge and lifting the table up. I soon learnt that giving him a chin rub distracted him and he would dose off closing his eyes and resting the whole weight of his rather heavy head in my hands!

Nicky particularly loves using car tyres and bumpers as a rubbing post! Sometimes he was restless and had to be taken off for a run, to let off steam, and on one of these explosive runs he ran ahead of Yusuf (one of his keepers), straight into a big male elephant who was being pushed out of the exclusion zone around Mike and Sarah's house! All I heard was an elephant(elly) making a lot of trumpeting and Yusuf shouting and clapping. By the time I caught up the elly was breaking through the fence and Yusuf was standing gasping, a tad shaken with Nicky seemingly looking up towards us rather perplexed but otherwise all was well! 

It has been an absolute joy and a privilege to spend so much time with Nicky, getting to know him and to learn a bit about rhinos. To find myself squeaking to a baby rhino and getting constant and immediate ongoing squeak responses is quite something. After some time spent together he seemed to get to know my voice, so that when I arrived I would quietly call him and his ears pricked and he came to me.  

I miss my long sculpting sessions with him and can easily say he has been my favourite model. I believe we underrate animal intelligence and their emotions and sensitivity. Getting to know what a special and wonderful creature Nicky is makes me all the more upset and angry about the senseless and inhumane massacre of this iconic and ancient species. It would be such a tragedy should they become extinct. We cannot allow it to happen. I hope that in a small way the auction of this bronze can contribute to the costs of keeping the rhinos on Lewa safe.”

Once the original was completed from life, in Kenya, in non-drying wax and oil based clay, Camilla carried it back to the UK in her hand luggage, creating quite some interest from airport security when x-rayed. In the UK it was cast into bronze at the Barret and Jarvis foundry over six weeks. The finished bronze was finally patinated by Camilla, who tends to get very involved in the casting process, having herself worked at a foundry. The bronze casting process is well illustrated in her blog on her life size bronze of the famous cavalry horse Sefton

The Sculptor

Camilla’s “exquisitely detailed wildlife bronzes” have been exhibited at established galleries since 2000 and have won awards from the British Sporting Art trust and the Society of Wildlife Artists.

Her work was recently acquired for an overseas royal collection and is bought by private art collectors worldwide. Her works have raised in excess of £27,000, for charities in recent years. She is the inaugural artist in residence for the Royal Veterinary College for whom she has sculpted a life size bronze of Sefton, the famous Household Cavalry horse, which is due to be unveiled in October. Camilla now splits her time between the UK and Kenya where she is happiest sculpting the wildlife in wilderness areas. She will be having a solo show at the newly merged Rountree Tryon galleries in the autumn to coincide with Sefton’s unveiling.

Sir David Attenborough and Nicky on the BBC

Anna Merz New York Times obituary

On Camilla's bronze of Sefton the heroic horse