Documentation images: John Brash
CUB SEPARATED FROM SPOOKED POLAR BEAR
Cub separated from spooked polar bear is Sanja Pahoki’s latest investigation into mother-child relationships, mental illness and language. The exhibition is based on media reportage of two polar bear cubs that were hand-reared by German zookeepers after being rejected by their mothers. One of the mothers became disturbed when a photographer entered her enclosure. The zoo feared that the fate of the polar bear cub, named Flocke would follow that of two other cubs that had been eaten by their mother, Vilma. Flocke has been compared to Berlin Zoo’s celebrity polar bear, Knut, who was also rejected by his mother Tosca, an ex-East European circus performer. Like Elvis Presley, Knut had a twin brother that died shortly after birth. At the height of Knut’s fame he was photographed by Annie Leibovitz and featured on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with Leonardo DiCaprio. The decision to hand-rear polar bears has been controversial with some animal activists claiming that the zoos should have let ‘nature take its course’ by leaving the cubs to die. As vindication of this belief there has been speculation about Knut’s mental health. Zookeepers have claimed that Knut is a ‘psychopath’ who is addicted to human adulation.