national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, September 28, 2012


(Zane Lang)

Rick Andrew pays tribute to his friend and colleague.

Zane Austin Lang was born in Zambia on September 16, 1957. He spent his youth in Rhodesia, studied Fine Art at the university in Pietermaritzburg, and lived in Durban from 1983 to 2001, where he developed his art, partied, and taught at Glenwood Boy’s High School. In 2001, he moved to Botswana and there for ten years he practiced his art, taught art, and coached cricket. In 2011, he moved north to Zambia where he taught until January 2012.

Zane crisscrossed Africa many times in his life’s journey. He loved Africa, though not its politicians. One of his friends, in a tribute, described him as the Forrest Gump of Africa - that American movie character whose life is rich in experience, brought about by a mixture of talent, seeming naivety, luck, and his own generous nature.

Zane was unique … one of a kind… eccentric, gentle, brave, competitive, and he was a skilled artist, teacher and cricketer. Zane would always think laterally, never in a conventional way. He couldn’t help but be original.

His skill of eye and hand as an artist carried over into his cricket, which he played well into his 40s. He also coached the Botswana U19 team, which tells a great deal about his leadership and social skills, and, judging by the tributes from the staff and students of Westwood school, he was appreciated and well loved.

Yet, despite all of this social engagement, his real love was for Art – painting and drawing, and on occasion, sculpture. When I first met Zane in the early 1980s I was impressed by his work and also by his quest to move away from Urbania and to get closer to raw nature, the veld, and to find a way to make art there. He’d go out empty-handed and return with a ‘painting’ in which everything had been found ‘out there’ - the surface to ‘paint’ on, the brush supplied by grasses or twigs, and the pigment, some of which, in the particular case I recall, had been supplied by an old, discarded tin of shoe polish.

As an example of this ‘natural’, improvisational style, I have this cross which Zane made when he was poised on the verge of conversion to Christianity. He was pondering on the vision and promises of Jesus. It was the day of his parent’s wedding anniversary and he was down at the beach. He found a shoelace and two sticks, and with them made a cross. Before he reached the street, however, he threw the cross into the bush. Six months later, and now truly a Christian, he was at the same beach when he saw the cross he had made, undamaged, but at least 200 metres from where he had originally thrown it. Clearly it had been in the hands of others! He had it in his room at the Highway Hospice.

Zane fought bravely against cancer, and through courage and determination presented an exhibition of his work at the ArtSPACE gallery in July, despite being gravely ill. Soon after, though, he moved towards an acceptance of his condition and then he looked towards the afterlife, each day producing visionary drawings and developing new relationships.

I would like to mention in particular, Lucille, his mom, who has bravely borne much weight in this situation, and Gert Swart, who has brought so many of Zane’s friends together and orchestrated so much of the correspondence and communication. – Rick Andrew