The Chimps have landed! Renowned exhibition officially opens in Kingston

By Eli Haidari

27th Jan 2023 | Local News

Kingston upon Thames has officially welcomed 10 chimps from the hugely successful 'Chimps Are Family' exhibition (Credit: Chris Dalton / Gillie and Marc).
Kingston upon Thames has officially welcomed 10 chimps from the hugely successful 'Chimps Are Family' exhibition (Credit: Chris Dalton / Gillie and Marc).

Kingston upon Thames has officially welcomed 10 chimps from the hugely successful 'Chimps Are Family' exhibition.

The exhibition opens to the public from today (January 27) by world established artists Gillie and Marc and Kingston First, the town's Business Improvement District.

Moving down the river from their previous location in London Bridge, the instillation includes 10 out of the original 18 chimps in a move set to create an interactive experience for residents focused on conservation. 

The chimps can be found in various locations around Kingston's town centre (Credit: Chris Dalton / Gillie and Marc).

Kirsten Henly, Chief Executive of Kingston First, said: "We are delighted to be partnering with world-renowned artists Gillie and Marc to bring these wonderful sculptures to Kingston upon Thames. We know that people are always looking for new, exciting experiences; free and accessible public artwork is an important strategy to create vibrant and successful places and encourages people to visit their local town and businesses.

"Ten characterful chimps are located on a trail to discover around Kingston town centre, and we look forward to welcoming the many visitors and local residents who will be coming to enjoy them."

The sculptures are designed to be interactive with members of the public encouraged to get as close as they want, touching their faces, examining their hands, and giving them a hug. The unique form of public conservation has been designed with the hope of inspiring love and connection.

Members of the public are encouraged to engage with the sculptures (Credit: Chris Dalton / Gillie and Marc).

Each of the chimps are displayed with a QR code where the public can learn all about the individual chimpanzee and find important information surrounding conservation. They will also have the option to donate funds to go directly to save chimpanzees.

The installation promotes the idea that it is possible to share the world we live in with chimps who share an estimated 98% of our DNA. Despite the remarkable connection between humans and chimpanzees it is the former that has become their biggest threat to the latter's existence. 

Major increases in human populations have resulted in miles and miles of their habitat being destroyed, clearing space for city expansion, agriculture, roads, logging, and mining. This has led to it becoming increasingly difficult for chimps to survive, forcing them to live in smaller spaces and putting a major strain on food options. 

The issue over food, in particular, has led to human-chimpanzee conflict. In their desperation to find enough to eat, the chimps are forced to come to human settlements to steal food, mainly easy to grab things such as fruit, but when things have become increasingly difficult, they have been known to take children. Families retaliate by killing the chimps to stop any other attacks.

Chimps are also targeted by bushmeat hunters as they provide plenty of meat compared to other smaller animals. The hunters are also known to take the young in as their pets or sell them on the illegal pet trade, a lifestyle that is never suitable for a wild animal .

Based off real animals the artists Gillie and Marc met while studying, the public will be able to meet individual animals. It is hoped this will help them to realise that there are apes with unique personalities, thoughts and emotions.

One of the ten striking chimps located outside Kingston station (Credit: Chris Dalton / Gillie and Marc).

One half of the artist duo, Gillie said: "I was born in Kingston Hospital and lived my first years in Kingston upon Thames. My earliest fond childhood memories were spent walking along the river with my mother and father. It is so special to be able to bring 'Chimps Are Family' to the place and community where my life began."

For more information on Gillie and Marc, as well as the Chimps Are Family exhibition, visit the link here.


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