Padhchinh - Every Footprint Tells a Story

Padhchinh - Every Footprint Tells a Story


It was sometime last year when a friend told me about an artist and wildlife conservationist in Singapore who found a way to combine her two passions to create something beautiful and meaningful. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure to meet with Alpana Ahuja several times and hear about her unique and fascinating work, which lies at the intersection of art and wildlife conservation. Her art has been collected by the likes of Justin Trudeau and Pharrell Williams and has helped raise large amounts of funds for wildlife conservation in India and Singapore.

I’m excited and honoured to share more about Big Blue Trunk’s collaboration with Alpana Ahuja.


(Picture by David Stewart)


At the intersection of art and wildlife conservation. 

As an artist, for many years Alpana had painted Lord Ganesha (Indian elephant-headed God, the remover of obstacles), until she discovered the joy of painting actual elephants. It started with a calendar she was creating for Wildlife SOS, and it never stopped. As she spent time with the elephants, she began to learn more about their kind and sensitive hearts, gentle natures and their vast knowledge of the earth. She loved the diversity with which she could characterise them in her art - in bright bold colours or monotones, zoomed into the face or as a large herd, at the forefront or in the background of a painting… she had found her one true muse!


Elephants as co-creators of Art

Alpana felt her connection with these fascinating creatures grow over the years. She was taken by their intelligence, emotional sensitivity and her heart hurt for all the abuse they experienced at human hands. As part of her fundraising efforts, she decided to involve elephants as co-creators in her art - thus emerged a unique collection called “Padhchinh” or “Footprints” in Sanskrit. Elephant footprints are special and tell each tell an individual story. Alpana observed that newly rescued elephants who have just been brought into the Elephant Sanctuary will have smooth pads that are worn out by walking on tarred roads, while those that have spent time at the sanctuary will begin to redevelop natural crevices and grips on their foot pads. 


These footprints symbolise the elephants walking away from a miserable existence towards a better future. 

A couple of times a year, Alpana visits the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, India and co-creates art with the rescued elephants - their unique footprints on her canvases. Her favourite co-artist is Phoolkali, blind in one eye from abuse before she was rescued and brought to the sanctuary, she is calm, gentle and patient by nature. She enjoys working with Alpana and gives her almost perfect footprints each time. As all the elephants at the Sanctuary are used to being checked by veterinarians for foot problems regularly, lifting their foot is quite a regular activity for them. For Alpana, these footprints symbolise the elephants walking away from a miserable existence towards a better future. 


Her newest Padhchinh Collection has been created with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

For several years now, Alpana has been searching for a natural non-toxic paint to use in her Padchinh Collection, one that isn’t harmful to the elephants or the earth as it’s washed off. And that’s how she found us! Her newest Padhchinh Collection has been created with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint that’s odourless, non-toxic and low on VOCs, completely safe for babies, pregnant women and animals alike. We are delighted that her experiment with using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint was successful and are excited about a long-lasting collaboration with her. All proceeds from the sale of her Padhchinh collection will go directly to Wildlife SOS towards the rehabilitation of rescued elephants. 


The famous Raju and sweet Kalpana

For her most recent collection, Alpana worked with 2 elephants - the famous Raju and sweet Kalpana. She says “Raju was very cooperative and gave us some beautiful footprints. Kalpana and Holly, the inseparable duo, were well, inseparable. Holly didn’t like lifting her foot, so we left her alone. Kalpana was happy to do some foot lifting in exchange for treats. But she got bored quickly so back we went to Raju to finish the lot. We also had to contend with a litter of 8 pups running around fearlessly. Hence my art had to dry on a cart! Using Annie Sloan Chalk Paints was a great experience. I was happy that my paint run-offs didn’t pollute the earth at the Elephant Care and Conservation Centre. Being mindful of our daily actions is important for the future of our planet.”


You can support the cause by:

  1. Purchasing unique art from the Padhchinh Collection online or in-store at Big Blue Trunk

  2. Attending our “Meet the Artist” event with Alpana on February 22 at 5:00PM at our Studio

  3. Contributing directly to Wildlife SOS

Also read - Alpana Ahuja, 57, Artist and Elephant Whisperer by the Ageist

January 31, 2020 — Deepti Chadda