Euvrard, G: Encounters with African elephants: transformative gatherings


Gwenda Euvrard


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In this paper I explore how my (and our) sense of an inter-connected connected humanness might come into deepened and expanded being in our encounters with African elephants. As a keystone species, elephants' daily engagement in the wilderness constantly transforms the world in which they live, activating, opening up and expanding the gathering of relationships which is the ecosystem. In contrast, we humans have, to a large extent, become disconnected from our wild origins in the elemental landscape and with other creatures, resulting in a disconnection from the fullness of our humanity (Abram, 2010; McCallum, 2005). How might our encounters with keystone African elephants invoke into presence possibilities and potentialities which might bring us into an experience of an expanded, deepened, more integrated and more inter-connected humanness?

Many African folk tales passed down through the oral tradition carry and presence the collective mystery of African elephants. These various stories articulate and invite us to reflect on the range and depth of possibilities of our humanness that encounters with African elephants have evoked across time. I will reflect on one South African folk tale, an Nguni isiXhosa intsomi. In this story, a mother, her children, and the community find redemption through entering an African elephant's being. This encounter becomes a gathering which invokes and activates a widened and deepened consciousness and invites engaged participation in a transformed and expanded humanness.

Presenter Bio:

Gwenda Euvrard, MA, has practised for over 20 years as a clinical psychologist and Jungian psychotherapist in Makhanda, a vibrant university town and arts and cultural centre in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Her practice room has views across her large secluded garden to the veld. She is fortunate to spend a lot of time in various South African wilderness areas, frequently among the African elephants in nearby Addo, and has long had an interest in how our wilderness encounters bring us into deepened and expanded living.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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