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White Elephant Slide

Anchor 9

In Thailand, if a white elephant is ever found, it would be regarded as extra special, distinguished from other ordinary elephants. White elephants are treated equally as humans, or in some cases, with even more care and respect. While they are considered sacred in Thailand, contrastingly, the expression, “white elephant” in English means useless possessions. It is derived from the legend that the king of Siam, present-day Thailand, gave a white elephant to an unfavorable servant of his. It cost the recipient a large sum of money to look after, while he could not dispose of it since it was the gift from the king. Thus, it is said that the servant subsequently became poor.


This expression, “white elephant,” can also be used to refer to unused nuclear power plants. For instance, the Bataan nuclear power plant in the Philippines was built in 1984, but to finance the project, the government had to borrow a lot from foreign countries. Nonetheless, it has never even once been in operation since then, while the maintenance cost continues to pile up. Although it is now used as a tourist attraction, the unused nuclear power plant is precisely the white elephant.

The elephant slide is a common piece of playground equipment for children installed in many parks in Japan. By painting the surface of the slide to look like white marble, albeit being merely a rendering, I intend to add a sense of religious reverence and political injustice to the already latent function of being a plaything, as the double meaning of what white elephant symbolizes in Thailand inspired me.


We can imagine a pleasant sight where children are peacefully playing, yet simultaneously, it masquerades the paradoxical nature of what transpires in the modern society, including the growing propensity that we adults tend to defer currently brewing problems in the society to the future generations.


Hence, the reason for painting the elephant slide like white marble is that while the ‘staunch back’ of the elephant is intended to represent the weight of the fate that the future generations may have to owe as the marble texture conveys, the fact that it is merely painted also aims to bestow the feeling of hope on it, since it may perhaps be possible to avoid the situation where children have to inherit such burdens depending on what we adults do today.


Akira Ishiguro

Anchor 10

​ホワイトエレファント スライド

タイでは白象が発見されると一般の象と区別し、人間と同じように官位を与え丁重に扱われます。それは神聖で尊い信仰である一方で、英語における"White elephant"は「無用の長物」という意味を持ちます。それは、シャムの王様が気に入らない家来に白象を贈った故事に由来しています。象の飼育には大変なお金が掛かりますが、王様からの貴重な贈り物を無下に扱う訳にもいきません。それ故、家来は必ず落ちぶれたといいます。


そして、この “White elephant" は原子力発電所を揶揄する意味にも使われることがあります。(例えば、フィリピンのバターン原子力発電所は、海外から莫大な借金をして1984年に建設しておきながら、過去に一度も稼働しておらず維持費が嵩み続けています。現在は観光地として利用されてはいるものの、これは正に"White elephant"です。)



石黒 昭

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