Scottish hippo sculptor honored with tribute from school he helped fund

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A Scottish artist known for his creations featuring hippos had the honor of having part of a school named after him.

Sculptor Mark Stoddart raises awareness about dyslexia and advocates for children in Kenya to help them access the support they need.

Known for his Hippo tables and furniture, which have sold for thousands of pounds across the world, Mr Stoddart has auctioned off one of his own works to help raise money and celebrate the birthday of a very special hippopotamus.

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Fiona the hippo, star resident of the Cincinnati Zoo, turned five last month and is known for defying the odds after being born six months premature and weighing just 29 pounds.

The Ayrshire artist gave away his Hostage Hippo coffee table in a raffle at Fiona’s virtual birthday party – the proceeds helping a dyslexia school in Nairobi.

Fiona the hippopotamus at the Cincinnati Zoo

Work will now begin for the RareGem Talent school in Kenya after the Kenya Dyslexia Organization, which funds it, was awarded £13,000 after £87,000 was raised at a recent auction to mark the anniversary of the most famous hippopotamus in the world.

Mr. Stoddart’s limited-edition hippo coffee table ended up being listed as part of fixtures and fittings when a Troon hotel went bankrupt. He fought to get the table returned and earlier this year donated it to the zoo for the raffle.

Speaking on World Hippo Day, Mr Stoddart, who is dyslexic himself, said: “Around £87,000 has been raised, of which £13,000 will be payable to the Kenya Dyslexia Organization to help build their new RareGem Talent School which they have already started building in. I agreed to give them an additional £8,000 to bring their total to £21,000.

“Amazingly, the total number of tickets sold during the raffle was 17,396. A big thank you to everyone who purchased a ticket. I just did it to raise awareness, but it was sweet when they told me the art class would be called StoddART and Fiona the Hippo.”

The Hostage Hippo table was a raffle prize donated by Mark Stoddart

The Hostage Hippo table was a raffle prize donated by Mark Stoddart

Mr Stoddart said it was fantastic they could build a new, larger school to replace the rented tin building they are currently in, adding: “While someone in the world is the winner of Hostage Hippo, what I’m trying to achieve on the back of all of this is to create awareness of dyslexia and neurodiversity issues.

“Some of the kids at the school have done paintings and one really stands out. It’s amazing how art can help young people express themselves.

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The Cincinnati Zoo was thrilled when Mr Stoddart got involved in the anniversary celebrations.

“We had a lot of fun with Fiona’s virtual birthday party, and people loved Mark’s amazing hippo table,” Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard said. “It was truly a work of art, and the winner is lucky to have such a treasure in her home. The Zoo is grateful for her generosity.”

Children at school in Nairobi

Children at school in Nairobi

Mr Stoddart has lived with dyslexia all his life and credits his artistic success to the confidence he gained after attending Frewen College in Sussex, a school specifically for people with dyslexia. He said his college education taught him he didn’t need to be held back by the condition. He is a proud supporter of Dyslexia Scotland and is keen to take this opportunity to help Rare Gem Talent School bring the same sense of hope and belief to children in Fiona’s home country of Kenya.

“All my life I have been grateful for the support I received in my youth and the success I experienced as an artist as an adult. With the help of the Cincinnati Zoo and the adorable Fiona, I’m excited about the opportunity to give the children of Rare Gem a similar boost, and hope to see the success it inspires in them in the years to come. come,” he added.

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