As I entered Natick Mall on Sunday morning a little kid in front of me, seeing a sign for a new art exhibit, asked the adults she was with: “What’s a meerkat?”
An even better question might be “Why meerkats?”
The lower floor of the mall near the soon-to-be-departed Neiman Marcus is now dotted with dozens of colorful 4-foot-high meerkats—a mammal native to deserts in the southern tip of Africa—made from regenerated plastics by an outfit called Cracking Art.
The Mall actually would appear to have had its choice of a number of animal species from Cracking Art, so it’s a little surprising it would choose one whose groups are called “mobs” or “gangs.” But I’m sure we would have come up with something to poke fun at too if they’d gone with the snails, penguins or wolves.
Meerkats have gained popularity through the TV show Meerkat Manor and the character Timon in The Lion King.
The Mall’s marketing team tries to force some meaning into the art by touting the “awe-inspiring exhibition” as “sparking a community-wide conversation about caring for our environment and each other.”
But it does have the effect the Mall is truly looking for. Kids and adults dart toward the meerkats when they come upon them for photos, including selfies.
So they do fit property owner Brookfield’s efforts to keep the mall relevant as a place to gather.