Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alfred--Bristol Zoo

A young Alfred, before he went to live at the Bristol Museum

Solved after 50 years, the mysterious disappearance of Alfred the ...

Alfred had the "honor" of having famed Roland Ward do the honors.

Wow!Gorillas is a project sponsored by the Bristol Zoo in 2011 that displays 61 decorated life-sized fibreglass gorilla sculptures on the streets of Bristol, England.

The project follows the concept of the “Land in Sicht” the original Swedish project by artistic director Walter Knapp which has inspired the subsequent worldwide exhibition "CowParade" and similar exhibitions in other cities.

Gorillas have had an iconic significance for Bristol city since Alfred the gorilla arrived at the Bristol Zoo and was one of the first gorillas successfully kept in captivity. At his death, Alfred was the oldest Gorilla in the world kept in captivity. Alfred became so important for the city and for its meaningfulness in the effort of saving primates, that after his death his body was stuffed by taxidermist Rowland Ward and kept on display at Bristol City Museum.

In March 1956 Alfred's body disappeared from the glass cabinet of the museum for several days before turning up in a doctor's office. The identity of the kidnappers remained unknown for over 50 years. When the mystery of the kidnappers was finally solved the authorities declared that, although such illegal activities should never be condoned, no action would be taken. The disappearance was not malicious and was indeed regarded as one of the acts related to one of the most loved figures of Bristol city.

This historical and current love and dedication towards primates has made the project especially attractive to locals and visitors, and has initiated a cascade of other initiatives such as schools learning programmes, incorporating art and environmental awareness.

The aim of the project has been to raise awareness about the extinction crisis facing primates in the wild and it is sponsored by the Bristol Zoo on the occasion of its 175th birthday and its long lasting effort to save primates in Cameroon, most notably at Ape Action Africa. The Zoo has saved a number of gorillas to date, and is currently taking care of a group of six now living together on-site.

After the street exhibition (ten weeks between the 6th of July and the 7th September 2011) the sculptures were sold at auction in Bristol on 29th September, raising £427,300, and the proceeds donated to charity.

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