Tembo’s conception is an interesting one because it didn’t start with the artist. The elephant statue is the brainchild of Lou (Bud) Odette, a Toronto contractor, and philanthropist. Bud was fascinated by large three-dimensional sculptures, an interest that was sparked after a post-World War II motorcycle tour through Italy. He had collected several for his own personal menagerie when he came across a statue of a mother elephant and babies while on a trip to Florida.
Odette purchased the piece and had it shipped home to Toronto. It was significantly smaller than he would have liked so he shopped the piece around to various foundries in the city to see if they could make it life-sized. Derrick Stephan Hudson was the only one who was willing to take on the challenge and the rest is history. Tembo has been on loan to Commerce Court from the L.L. Odette Foundation since 2005.
Lou Odette was an interesting man. He has donated a significant amount of his collection to the City of Windsor, as part of the Odette Sculpture Park in Windsor. He also was the driving force behind the creation of Toronto’s Sculpture Garden and the Centre for Sculpture at York University, which is considered one of the pre-eminent art schools in North America.
Tembo is a lovely piece of whimsy in the middle of the concrete jungle. I feel a little bad for her. When I think elephants, I think wide expanse of grasslands and having a mud bath at the local watering hole. And if you want to see her in that environment, you can by visiting her twin at the Odette Sculpture Garden in Windsor. Here, she and her babies seem out of their element, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe Tembo is here to remind us that our natural element isn’t to be stuck surrounded by steel and cement, but out in a world of greens and blues, with the wind in our hair and grass under our feet.
The title of this article is taken from the song Baby Mine, written by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington and featured in the Disney film, Dumbo.