Regina Konstantinova — This unusual sculpture emerged at Leiden University Medical Center in Spring 2016. Margriet van Breevoort, an artist and a beginner sculptor from Amsterdam, called it the "Homunculus Loxodontus;" however, it became widely known as "Zhdun," which in Russian means "somebody waiting for something."
"I wanted to give it a scientific name, like a new species. Homunculus means 'little guy' in Latin, or 'artificially created human.' And Loxodontus is the scientific name for African elephant, referring to the snout," Margriet told Sputnik.
The monster has an unusual appearance indeed. Besides its distinctive snout, it has big kind eyes. And it is also quite chubby.
"I was commissioned by 'Beelden in Leiden' to make something inspired by the LUMC, the medical center in Leiden, and I didn't want to create something about medicine or illness, but rather about the patients themselves. The way they just have to await their fate in the waiting rooms. About hoping for the best," she explained.
"I wanted it to be a kind of lovable companion, something or someone that gives comfort, but also makes you laugh. In this building, there is also a lot of medical and genetic research going on. So the way the sculpture looks is a bit of a joke towards this research. It's like a failed experiment or product of this research that is hoping and waiting to get better. Like a big, cute, partly human and huggable lump of flesh," the artist added.
So, Zhdun was sitting there at the hospital and waiting for its moment of fame and glory for about a year. In January 2017, a Russian woman visited the hospital and found that the statue deserved some attention. She took its picture and published it on Pikabu, the Russian version of Reddit. That is when the adorable creature became a sensation and turned into a remarkable meme.
Pictures of Zhdun went viral on Russian-language social media and even was featured in few news stories on local TV. Russian netizens made him star in popular movies and series, and featured him in famous paintings.
One could even find Zhdun joining the Yalta Conference, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin or meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Margriet started to receive more followers from Russia, and their number soon exceeded the Dutch ones. Zhdun became a sort of new national hero, it seems. The Russians feel Zhdun's emotions like no one else does. It's in Russians' history and mentality to always wait for something, standing in queues or generally expecting some changes for good in their lives.
"I have been told it is so popular in Russia because they recognize themselves… They share the same mentality, always waiting," the young artist noted. Of course, she never thought it would result in such a specific success. "It was indeed a big surprise! I never saw it coming!" she said.
"My life is a little bit upside down at the moment. I'm receiving so many messages that all I'm doing at the moment is sitting behind my laptop and answering emails. But besides all the staring at a screen it also has a positive side: I may receive some assignments because of this, which will help me to have better prospects for the future, as an artist," Margriet concluded.
While waiting for some more awesome creations by the Amsterdam artist, take a look at Zhdun with other meme heroes, for example, with ugly Graham, a sculpture of a deformed-looking human designed to survive car crashes, and badly stuffed animal, known as Stoned Fox.