The King and Queen wore elephant masks designed by the Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee at an event last week to mark the 20th anniversary of a wildlife conservation charity.
Elephant Family was set up by late Mark Shand, the Queen’s brother, and works to protect Asia’s wildlife.
The royal couple attended the Animal Ball 2023 at Lancaster House last Wednesday (28) when two awards were also presented.
Indian designers Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra, and Anita Dongre represented the country by creating masks for guests at the event.
In an Instagram post, Mukherjee said the King and Queen wore Shola masks that paid homage to Bengal’s heritage and culture.
Shola is the craft of carving sholapith, a spongey cork from the aquatic plant that grows in the marshlands of Bengal.
He wrote, “Their Majesties King Charles III & Queen Camilla in The Shola Mask from Sabyasachi. For The Animal Ball 2023. Presented by Elephant Family
“I like to tell hyper local stories to the world in an attempt to create economic sustainability for heritage crafts and craftspeople.
“The Elephant Family and I are committed to similar but different missions. While I aim to preserve endangered heritage crafts, they conserve endangered animals and habitats. It’s my privilege and honour to be a part of their cause.”
The Shola masks were made by hand using artisanal techniques and materials, as a collaboration between the artists from the Sabyasachi Art Foundation and craftspeople from Bengal.
The designer added, “Every year the craftspeople make decorations for the deities and entire structures during the Durga Puja celebrations – that is a part of UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Shola Masks are made in homage to Bengal’s living heritage and culture.”
Dongre created the “Panchhi Mask” for the ball, which represented the birds that best represent tropical countries, while Malhotra made the fictitious “Maharaja Mask” that symbolised the lion, which actress Janhvi Kapoor wore.
Of the two prizes presented at the event, the Mark Shand Award went to The Real Elephant Collective (TREC), a community of 70 adivasi artists and wildlife conservationists. They spent five years creating the CoExistence Herd, sculptural representations of wild elephants they coexist with, according to the Elephant Family.
And the Tara Award, inspired by the bond between elephants and humans, was given to Kartiki Gonsalves, the director of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Elephant Whisperers.”