South African designer Porky Hefer’s new artworks depict a kingdom of giant soft toys. Called Endangered, the collection will make you weep. The day before the sculptures were shipped off to Switzerland to be exhibited, a group of journalists were invited to a private viewing. The animals are large, and while the real versions may be scary, there is nothing intimidating about these ones. Quite the opposite: they have been designed to invite you into their arms, into their mouths and to be sat upon. Porky hopes that their adorability will “ignite” a sense of responsibility to protect these animals. To highlight the plight of endangered species and the planet, Porky created an orangutan, a polar bear, a sloth, a blue whale, and a great white shark. “These animals are helpless. We control them so completely,” says Porky.

“I like to work with archetypes and one of the archetypes is the shape of a shark. It represents danger. But when you get closer to it you notice that it is so beautiful. And, when you look inside this one, you see how this animal is being throttled by the plastic it’s swallowing up in the sea,” he says. Inside the mouth of Porky’s shark there are embroidered shapes of plastic waste typically found in the sea: bottles, plastic bags…

Besides drawing attention to the animals, these works draw attention to the preservation of human skills, crafts and traditions,” says Porky in a press statement. “I think it’s important to show what beauty humans are capable of with their hands rather than the destructive mass production that technology is driving the modern consumerist society towards.” The artisans with whom Porky worked to create these creatures include textile artist Ronel Jordaan and craft collectives Heart Works and Mielie. The giant sculptures have been crocheted, felted, stitched and embroidered using eco materials and recycled goods. The sale of the works will benefit the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which is dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all Earth’s inhabitants.

The creatures were created very quickly, which Porky says is a very good thing. “I like the organic process and we had to react to a commission on the hoof. We didn’t have time to think about it too long. The animals carry the energy of something made very quickly and immediately.”

According to the press release CEO of LDF, Terry Tamminen says, “We are incredibly excited to partner with Porky on this exciting project, and we appreciate his creativity and commitment to helping us find new ways to engage the public on issues impacting wildlife. This exhibition will raise awareness about the importance of protecting endangered species around the world.”

We should both weep at the state of the world, and support those working at fixing it.