Lang, Zane - VM - Gert Swart and Erna Buber
Zane Lang: Waiting for the Miracle
The Nature of Miracles
by Gert Swart and Erna Buber-deVilliers
And the Pharisees came... seeking of him a sign from heaven. Mark 8:11
A dead branch slashes diagonally across the picture plane. A brown bird sits immobile on another. The horizon tilts, dotted at its centre with tiny faraway buildings. Or are those specks just rocky outcrops? A maze of forbidding thorns curtains access to a bleak and barren landscape and wisps of grey insubstantial clouds trail a flat hard sky like smudges on a wall. But wait! Way down in the bottom left-hand corner there is one sign of life: a little grey dung beetle is busily going about its business.
There's a drama unfolding in this painting. The rainbird, renowned for its lovely song heralding the coming of the long-awaited rains in Botswana, is a voracious predator. Will the scurrying beetle escape its notice or will it become prey? The tension created by the strong diagonal between them makes them the protagonists here, and their placement in opposite corners of the work draws attention to the empty landscape.
Who or what is waiting for the miracle? The breathlessly oppressive sky, the silent thirsty earth, the heraldic rainbird all seem to be waiting and perhaps the viewer is too. The only creature not waiting is the beetle, steadily pushing its ball of dung. When she finds the right spot, she will bury it and it will nourish her offspring who will grow up and carry on doing what she did. In the process, the seeds of plants that have passed through the digestive tracts of animals will germinate and grow and bear fruit.
‘Seeing is believing,’ so many of us say. Faith says: ‘Believe and you will see.’ Without hope, we have neither will nor energy to keep on going day by day, bearing our heavy and sometimes stinking loads. We are so small, our contributions so inadequate in the face of the world's problems. But the eyes of faith see us placing our little loaves and fishes in the hands of the One who performs the miracle of multiplication, the One who grows a tree.
Zane Lang: Waiting for the Miracle, 2008, gouache on cardboard, 116 x 170 cm.
Zane Lang (1957-2012): ‘I was born in 1957, twenty days before the first spaceship, Sputnik, was launched. I enjoy watching the stars.’ He grew up in Zimbabwe and studied Fine Art in Pietermaritzburg and then taught in Durban, South Africa. Like some Old-Testament prophet or a modern urban shaman, Zane left the city of Durban in 2001 and went to live in Botswana, where he ventures into the open spaces of the desert and expresses his visions and experiences. He died in 2012 of cancer.
Gert Swart (1952) is a sculptor who lives and works in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. www.gertswart.com/
Erna Buber-deVilliers is a friend of both Zane and Gert and enjoys writing. She is married to artist Zak Benjamin. www.zakbenjamin.com/
ArtWay Visual Meditation July 15, 2012