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In two days, the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival opens in Washington DC. The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival provides an opportunity for US citizens and the world to experience Kenya’s rich and diverse cultural and natural resources such as Kenyan art, crafts, music and other products. Kenya is the fifth African country and the first in East Africa to be featured at the festival.

Elkana Ong’esa, a renowned sculptor, will be leading the charge in Kenya’s efforts to conserve the African Elephant with a 12-tonne sculpture dubbed “Hands Off Our Elephants.”

The initiative comes against a background of the brutal killing of one of the world’s largest elephants, Satao, which brought to 97 the number of elephants killed in Kenya in the past one year. Satao is the latest elephant to fall victim of runaway poaching in Tsavo that is feeding a growing ivory in Europe and Asia.

Satao lived in Tsavo East National park and was one of Tsavo’s most adored elephants, and was famous as one of the last surviving great tuskers, bearers of genes that produce bull elephants with long tusks that touch the ground.

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“This initiative was an onerous task as the initial sculpture curved from soapstone broke. We decided to use granite which is heavier but stronger. Initially, the sculpture weighed 22 tonnes and was meant to be shipped to Washington,” said Mr Onge’sa.

The sculpture which was transported by the Postal Corporation of Kenya (Posta) to Washington had to be chiseled at the centre to reduce the weight from 22 tonnes to 12 tonnes in order for the artistic piece to be airlifted to Washington DC in time for the festival.  The corporation is transporting thousands of art pieces for the festival.

The initial bidding prize for the sculpture is US$300,000 (Ksh26 million).

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