A Numbers Game

FZS Mural Thumbnail Sketch by Asher Jay

FZS Mural Thumbnail Sketch by Asher Jay

Title: A Numbers Game

Medium: Mixed media – water based paints, acrylics, photographic prints, painted paper

Description: “A Numbers Game” is a mixed media, conceptual mural that unconventionally depicts the extraordinary wildebeest migration that sweeps through the Serengeti each year. A reductionist at heart, Asher Jay relies on collage and a condensed yet vivacious, high contrast color palette to enhance the complex narratives explored in the graphic illustrative style that is typical of her portfolio.

The wildebeest begin their journey in the east, where the rising sun shapes them into existence, as shadowy silhouettes within the open savanna. As they build momentum and traverse forward, they cross a sinuous blue stretch, the Mara River, which flanks an equally curvilinear highway,  a metaphor for transition and progress that links the natural world with man-made artifice. The wildebeest adapt to this imposed context by revealing the support structure that allows them to thrive in their native ecosystem, the insightful, and industrious team of individuals that encompass Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS). Jay evokes this dialogue by integrating wildebeest cut outs from photographs of the FZS staff into the layout. Empowered by the continued field efforts of FZS, this otherworldly ungulate runs 1.4 million strong, over the zebra crossing and past a skyline that traces the trajectory of infrastructure growth in a capitalistic world, in relation to population growth in Tanzania. The slope of the skyline is determined by the median projection curve of Demographic Momentum, forecasted by Pathfinder.  This prediction posits that if Tanzania reaches replacement level fertility by 2060 then its population level will hit 200 Million based on the current breakdown of reproductively viable age groups. From a traditional Boma, to shoprite and the clock tower in Arusha, the skyline gradually increases to the west, evidencing exponential population growth, as it turns into high risers from the city scape of Dar-es-salam, Frankfurt and finally the Chrysler and Empire State in New York City. Below the Zebra crossing is a section of New York City’s map, which represents Central Park, a curated, confined habitat within the urban jungle. Within Central Park are mud paths, indicative of wildebeest migratory tracks, as well as shapes that reference the boundary outlines of Serengeti National Park and its surrounding protected areas of wilderness. By overlaying the blueprints of Africa’s last great wilderness areas within Central Park’s margins, Jay suggests that the Serengeti ecosystem is likely to be subject to the same anthropogenic stresses that resulted in the loss of wild in America and much of Europe. Globalization, socio-economic development of rural communities, industrial advancement, hunting, poaching and the exploitation of natural resources are the pressures that have come to shape the western, developed world, if these are not addressed comprehensively and consistently, the Serengeti is likely to suffer the same fragmented, fenced in fate as Central Park. The street grid above Central Park starts at Columbus circle, inside which lies a pie chart that demonstrates charcoal as the primary energy source fueling most Tanzanian households. In juxtaposition, the sectioned arm of Manhattan streets that extends to the right of the circle, contains a white trellis within it, signifying solar panels, a source of energy that will soon power the FZS offices in Serengeti, and hopefully, if adopted effectively by TANESCO, most of Tanzania as well. Wildebeest cut outs from photographs of people migrating to work in the Financial District of New York City begin to fill the metropolitan region of the canvas. This educes two commentaries, on the one hand it advocates the re-wilding of denuded, urban scenes, and on the other it deliberates the correlation between wildebeest and human herds. Perhaps if we, humans, recognized the wildebeest in us and the ‘human’ in the wildebeests, we would finally be able to co-exist and co-evolve in a more balanced reality that isn’t in a constant state of duality and dissonance.