ELEFANTE BLANCO (White Elephant)

Santiago Escobar-Jaramillo

2014 - 2015

La Guajira, Colombia

The urban and landscape intervention reflects about corruption in the North of Colombia. 20 years ago, unscrupulous politicians had to construct a road to communicate the Lower with the Northern Guajira. They never did it. Instead, 18 concrete structures constructed to hold the road and let the water pass where left behind abandoned in the middle of the desert. The search for the "white elephant", which at the beginning was a fable, then became a real issue that describes us as society: "white elephant" is an expression in Spanish to call buildings that were abandoned by the Government and are in disuse. The urban intervention consisted in covering these structures with a white tarpaulin to call the attention of locals and tourists about the problem. Also, to make a temporary dialogue with the environment, the animals and the people. Locals helped to cover and lit up the structure to be later photographed. The series is part of a bigger project called Zoología Real (Real Zoology), which describes social, cultural and political phenomenons where animals are named in phrases, proverbs and expressions.

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  • The blue sky is a metaphor for the lack of water (clouds) and drought in Guajira, Colombia.

  • Fidel Pushaina, who helped wrapping the concrete structure, points the area where the project was made.

  • A bush chases a girl in the dessert of High Guajira. The climate change chases humanity.

  • A cloud as a nuclear fungus under explosion.

  • Wood pole as an abstraction of the nose of the elephant.

  • Villagers have to travel to the border with Venezuela to get water for their community, plantations and animals, as Colombian government doesn't provide enough resources to fulfill their needs.

  • Goats are resistant animals for dry regions. Goats provide milk, meat and wool.

  • 18 concrete structures constructed to hold the road where left behind abandoned in the middle of the desert. Politicians use them to make campaign, animals and people for shade.

  • The desert is relentless and dry.

  • The "White Elephant" resting at night.

  • Bones of a goat's jaw lies on top of a fishing net.

  • A motorcycle driven by a indigenous Wayuú, lit up the structure at night to create a particular atmosphere.

  • An elephant made by children using objects and bones.

  • The "white elephant" stays pachydermal in the middle of the desert.

  • The "white elephant" sleeps at night...

  • At the end of the intervention, two villagers wrap themselves in the white tarpaulin.

  • Both, the elephant skin and the concrete layer, see how the water evaporates because of the high temperatures.

  • Concrete structure before being intervened with a white tarpaulin.