New African Mask
OIL ON CANVAS. ORIGINAL SIZE 21 x 26 in

Pandemic is the fear of extinction that has overtaken a large part of humanity. In the painting it is symbolically represented in the form of an elephant appearing against the peaceful savanna background wearing a gas mask. He is clearly unhappy with the role of a miserable 'martyr' and sufferer and that 'crown' of a mask is not the best image of him being protected from the pandemic!

Any minute now in a furious gesture he is going to kick the apparatus down to the ground – see the right knee bending in readiness. This young and strong creature rebels against the inability to smell and feel his home turf, the tropical forest. The self-isolation policy imposed by 'higher powers' has effectively deprived him of normal peer group interaction.

Self-isolation or absence of 'the fellowship of equals' rendered society helpless in the face of the spreading pandemic and turned the elephant into an easy prey.

We see a tiny bird in the painting that is not afraid to keep the rebel company. She is the young elephant's newsagent 'telling' him the latest. And it is a reliable source of information as it comes straight from the real-time news network Twitter!

Dr. Robert Zarr, founder and medical director of Park RX America, explains that "we are often in a hurry to prescribe medication or refer the patient to a specialist, whereas the root of the problem lies in the way of life." Park Prescriptions is now a national project in the US that helps people to improve their health by connecting with nature – park visits are prescribed as part of the routine health checks.

Australia and New Zealand have similar 'green prescription' initiatives and in the south-west of England in Devon's Dartmoor and Exmoor a local three-year pilot scheme is under way.

Dr. Zarr thinks the seed had fallen on good soil and the environmental stewardship movement is starting to grow.

A study conducted by a Stanford University group in 2015 shows that a walk in the park helps to decrease activity in the region of the brain responsible for generating heavy thoughts (urban dwellers being more susceptible to such states of mind according to the scientists). Similar research suggests that adults who regularly exercise in nature have higher levels of concentration and are much less prone to depression.

The late Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, was known for holding meetings while having a walk. More and more managers at the Silicon Valley companies and other large corporations are now using 'oxygen baths' not only as a means of destressing but also as a business tool. As research data becomes available, increasing numbers of medical professionals recommend nature walks to help their patients overcome digital addictions and treat depression.