The Twilight of the Gods / Ragnarök – 2023
Oil on canvas H130 x W180 cm
“In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is the end of days. It’s the apocalyptic moment when the entire cosmos, including the gods, will be destroyed.” Its meaning in Old Norse couldn’t be more apt in homo sapiens confronting our own imminent potential for self destruction.
The striking organic patination of the Burchell’s Zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) is mesmerizing. The camouflage potential of the unique pattern on each individual enables offspring to identify parents immediately after birth. In this image the dark striped pattern is painted without the alternating off-white colouring, creating a transparent effect which forcefully blends the animal into its landscape; it is literally dissolving into shared matter. The organic (natural) is juxtaposed with the geometric (man-made) zebra crossing device which forces an unmistakable reading of deep perspectival illusionistic space.
The setting is the Salt Pan at the Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana. The trees are the Baines Baobabs, a well known landmark named after the explorer/ artist Thomas Baines. The baobab is revered in Africa and Madagascar as a sacred and mystical tree. Baobabs can live for more than a thousand years and are perhaps among the oldest living things on the planet.
The San or “African bushman ha[ve’] a legend that tells of the god Thora. He took a dislike to the Baobab (Adansonia digitata) growing in his garden, so he threw it out over the wall of Paradise on to Earth below, and although the tree landed upside-down it continued to grow.”
Botswana is the last major refuge of the San people – The First Nations people of Central and Southern Africa. They had inhabited much of Southern Africa for approximately 100,000 years, as is indicated by the ubiquitous rock art, middens and other evidence of habitation throughout the region. Being hunter gatherers the San were targeted for annihilation after the permanent white settlement in 1652, as well as by their traditional enemies the Khoi Khoi and the Nguni peoples. They represented a threat to an expanding appetite for land and the exploitation of the resource rich sub-continent.
Mounted astride the Zebra is ‘Our Father’, a somewhat imperious boy, an imp simplified in outline only – a spectral presence, representing the monotheistic source of our male dominated world. William Wordsworth’s idiom The Child Is The Father Of The Man (from My Heart Leaps Up – 1802) is a prescient observation on the puerile source of our current predicament. The title suggests that his domain over the world is shortly to be curtailed – hence the waning gibbous moon.
I have deployed symbols; the San (the earliest inhabitants) and the Baobab (The oldest living flora), as being representative of all that is under threat – and caught in the middle is the wildlife.