Tag Archives: maasai

Sketch of rural women in Tanzania, by Alison Nicholls

Women in Tanzania

Rural women in Tanzania usually have a fairly low status in society and are often completely dependent on their husband, even though women do much of the work in rural households.

Loibor Siret Womens Meeting

Loibor Siret Women’s Meeting

African People & Wildlife (APW) works in conjunction with many rural communities in Tanzania, and together their initiatives are helping women become financially independent, giving them a voice in the decision-making of their families and their communities. Bee-keeping is one such initiative and has the added advantage of protecting habitat because Tanzania has a strong Bee-Keeping Act which ensures that land cannot be farmed or cleared around beehives.

Sketch of rural women in Tanzania, by Alison Nicholls

Women’s Meeting, ink and watercolor sketch from life by Alison Nicholls

Learning about the bee-keeping initiative, which involves more than 1200 women, and being able to sketch after a meeting of the Loibor Siret women’s bee-keeping group, is a thrill. There can be few things better for a sketch artist than sitting in a rural village, surrounded by the sights & sounds of everyday life, while sketching a group of women chatting under a shady tree. This was my 4th visit to APW and it is wonderful to be recognized and greeted enthusiastically by women I have sketched on my previous visits.

Mama Helena sketch by Alison Nicholls

Mama Helena Beading, ink sketch from life by Alison Nicholls

Mama Helena, shown beading in the sketch above, invited me to sketch at her homestead afterwards, and sent one of her grandchildren to fetch a sketch I did of her last time I was in Tanzania, 5 years ago!

Alison Nicholls Sketching

Alison Nicholls sketching in Tanzania

Sketching with an audience is something I am completely used to and it’s fun to see the children’s faces as the sketch progresses and they recognize the person I am sketching.

Alison Nicholls Sketching

Not all my sketches go to plan!

I’m making copies of my sketches to be sent back to Tanzania, but I hope my next visit to APW will be in the very near future.
Alison

Learn more about African People & Wildlife.
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Murals in Tanzania

Mural Magic in Tanzania

A major reason for my return to African People & Wildlife (APW) in Tanzania was to help with murals in 3 rural schools. The students created the designs using their own drawings and some images I supplied, then I made stencils to help transfer the outlines onto the walls quickly. The stencils proved very helpful and as a result it took each set of students only 1 day to finish their murals.

The name of the school and village (Loibor Siret, Kangala or Narakauo) is shown at the top of each wall, and the school’s Wildlife Club name is at the bottom. The Wildlife Clubs were set up with help from APW, and Noloholo is APW’s Environmental Center and headquarters. So Noloholo Simba Klabu means Noloholo Lion Club in Swahili. The other schools have twiga (giraffe) and faru (rhinoceros) as their symbols. I am making more stencils out of canvas (featuring different animals for other Wildlife Clubs) so more murals can be created by the students with help from APW.

I have visited APW 4 times, and every time I am struck by their continued success in “finding the balance for communities & wildlife”. There will be much more about my recent visit coming soon!

Learn more about African People & Wildlife.
Read about my previous visits to APW.

Thanks for watching!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Music on this video is royalty free, titled Acoustic Breeze, from www.Bensound.com

Sandals made from car tires, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Walk A Mile In Another’s Shoes by Alison Nicholls

Walking a mile in another person’s shoes is a valuable exercise, allowing us to see life from someone else’s perspective. But the words that make up this phrase show us a lot too. The assumption is that people everywhere wear shoes, something that is just not true in much of the world. In many places, people wear no shoes at all, or the shoes they wear are made from materials that would be discarded in Europe or in the US. Like the ‘ten thousand-milers’, sandals worn across East Africa, by the Maasai and other tribes. These practical, long-lasting sandals are made from the tread of car tires (that’s tyres, for those in the UK).

Sandals made from car tires, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Sandals made from car tires, field sketch by Alison Nicholls. The tread of the tire is used as the sole.

Shoes or no shoes, “walking a mile in another person’s footsteps” is a valuable lesson, and might result in more understanding and appreciation for other cultures, something that countries across the world could benefit from.

Until next time…
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Alison Nicholls sketching among the Maasai in Tanzania © African People & Wildlife Fund / Deirdre Leowinata

Lions, Livestock & Living Walls on Long Island

Join me on Sunday June 7 from 2 – 4pm, as I celebrate the appearance of my exhibition, Lions, Livestock & Living Walls, on Long Island. You can see my watercolor field sketches and studio acrylic paintings, based on my visits to the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania. You’ll also be able to see my new book, and at 3pm hear me talk briefly about APW and my visits there.

Cold Spring Harbor Library, Long Island, NY

Cold Spring Harbor Library, Long Island, NY

So please join me at the wonderful Cold Spring Harbor Library on Sunday June 7, from 2 – 4pm. The exhibition will be on display from June 2 – July 30. A donation will be made to APW from every sale.

Alison Nicholls sketching among the Maasai in Tanzania © African People & Wildlife Fund / Deirdre Leowinata

Alison Nicholls sketching in Tanzania. Photos by APW / Deirdre Leowinata

You can find the Cold Spring Harbor Library opening times here.
Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.
See my African Field Sketches.

I hope to see you there!
Alison

See my new book!
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Alison Nicholls' new Book featuring Art from Tanzania

And The Winner Is…

The results are in, and they were pretty overwhelming.  74% of voters chose the Yellow Cover for my new book!!!
Art Inspired by Africa:
An Artist Visits the African People & Wildlife Fund

Alison Nicholls' new Book featuring Art from Tanzania

Alison Nicholls’ new Book featuring Art from Tanzania

I’m glad I asked you to vote for the cover design, because my instinctive choice was the White Cover! Some of you will argue that I should go with the white cover because it was my choice and I am the artist, but I have to disagree. If almost three quarters of you chose the yellow cover, then I’m going with you – after all, one of the purposes of this book is to publicize my art and the work of APW. And the best way to do that is to have a larger number of people pick up the book!

Because the results of the poll were so clear, I decided to close the contest early. So the name of the winner was pulled today.  And guess what – the winner is another artist!

Shukas, a sample page from my upcoming book.

Shukas, a sample page from my upcoming book.

The winner is Ray Brown, a talented artist and friend. You should check out his art too – after you’ve ordered a signed copy of my book!

Field Sketches, a sample page from my upcoming book.

Field Sketches, a sample page from my upcoming book.

Pre-order a copy before April 30, 2015, and you will get a personally signed copy for the stupendously, ridiculously, low price of only US$35 excluding postage ($6 in the USA). After April 30, the book will be available on Amazon.com but at a higher price. I am ordering the books now and they will available late April or early May. A donation is made to APW from every sale.

Living Walls, a sample page from my upcoming book.

Living Walls, a sample page from my upcoming book.

If you live in the USA, you can order here:
Art Inspired by Africa
An Artist Visits the African People & Wildlife Fund

If you live outside the USA, drop me an email or leave a comment and I will let you know shipping costs for your country.

Pre-order Your Signed Copy for US$35 before April 30, 2015.

Alison Nicholls' new Book featuring Art from Tanzania

Alison Nicholls’ new Book featuring Art from Tanzania

Book Details:
This is the 1st book in my Art Inspired by Africa series, and it features images of art created as a result of my visits to the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) in Tanzania. There are full-page images of my field sketches and studio paintings, all accompanied by personal notes or journal excerpts. The foreword is by Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld, APW Executive Director, and other APW staff have also contributed to their comments to the book. Photographs and text explain specific APW programs on the Maasai Steppe and my work with local school children. The 46-page book is printed on full-color premium lustre paper, in a softcover 8×10″ landscape format. A donation is made to APW from every sale.

Congratulations to Ray Brown! (check out his amazing graphic art using the link).
Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania.
Until next time…
Take care
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
Donating to African conservation from every sale.

Kisimir, Nicholls, Living Wall, Tanzania

Human-Lion Conflict in Tanzania

Kisimir, Nicholls, Living Wall, Tanzania

Elvis Kisimir of APW & artist Alison Nicholls at a Living Wall in Tanzania

The start of 2015 has not been as peaceful as many across the world hoped. There have already been many atrocities and human tragedies in the first 2 weeks of this new year and my thoughts go out to all who have lost family members, friends and colleagues.

The start of the year was also tragic for a pride of lions near Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania. On New Year’s Eve the pride killed donkeys which were kept in a traditional thorn boma in a Maasai homestead, so the moran (warriors) hunted the lions and killed one. Early on New Year’s day a woman and her child found a lion in their boma (also a traditional thorn boma). Thankfully the woman and her child were unharmed, but the moran of the area started gathering in large numbers and hunted down another 6 lions. One of APW’s Human-Wildlife Conflict officers tried to diffuse the situation. (Elvis Kisimir, pictured above, is another of APW’s HWC offers. Like the others, he is Maasai, from a village in the area, and has successfully prevented warriors from embarking on lion hunts in the past.) However, this situation involved huge numbers of warriors and attempts to resolve the issue peacefully were unsuccessful.

I’m adding this post as an update to “How Do You Know If Conservation Is Working?”, a post I wrote at the end of last year and which you can see below. Unfortunately, this incident is a prime example of why the work of organizations like APW is so vital and why the installation of more Living Wall bomas (fortified bomas that protect livestock, prevent habitat destruction and dramatically reduce incidents of human-wildlife conflict) are essential. The area where the donkeys were killed has very few Living Wall bomas although APW hopes to install many more there in the future. But each wall takes time and money to install. APW founder & Executive Director Dr Laly Lichtenfeld told me that many people in other communities with significant numbers of Living Walls have expressed sympathy to APW staff over the lion killings. They appreciate the numerous benefits that working with APW has brought to their communities – not only Living Walls, but high school scholarships for children, natural resource management seminars for adults, grants for small businesses and the creation of the only Women’s Association on the Maasai Steppe, to name just a few. APW aims to expand these programs to many more communities and I hope you will consider supporting their work.

2015 has certainly not started as we all hoped, but lets make sure we turn it around very soon.
Until next time…
Alison

Donate to help APW expand their work on the Maasai Steppe

How Do You Know If Conservation Is Working? (originally posted on Dec 12 2014)

Quite simply, as in any other field, you have to evaluate your results. It is easy for conservation efforts to be undertaken with the best of intentions, only to find that there are unexpected negative consequences which put the whole project in question. Unfortunately, too many organizations want quick fixes and they don’t stick around to ensure that their efforts have the desired results.

That is certainly not the case with the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) in Tanzania, an organization I am proud to support. Dr Laly Lichtenfeld, Charles Trout and Elvis Kisimir of APW recently had a paper published in Biodiversity & Conservation, titled Evidence-based Conservation: Predator-proof Bomas Protect Livestock and Lions. The team evaluated their depredation data relating to large carnivore attacks on livestock in their study area, and found a significant decline in depredation events after the construction of fortified bomas (also known as Living Walls).

The fortified bomas prevent attacks on livestock by large carnivores and this prevents retaliatory attacks on carnivores by livestock owners. They reduce habitat destruction because they do not require repeated cutting of thorn bushes like traditional bomas, and they reduce the burden on women, because they require no maintenance. But significantly, they also found that the reduction in depredation events due to construction of fortified bomas, did not increase the number of carnivore attacks on non-fortified bomas or on livestock at pasture. Had this been the case, they could have been reducing depredation at the boma, only to increase it elsewhere. Instead, the evaluation of their long-term data showed that fortified bomas are an effective conservation tool and should be considered by other organizations aiming to reduce human-carnivore conflict.

And that is how you know conservation is working!

Donate to help APW continue their work on the Maasai Steppe!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Kisimir, Nicholls, Living Wall, Tanzania

How Do You Know Conservation Is Working?

Kisimir, Nicholls, Living Wall, Tanzania

Elvis Kisimir of APW & artist Alison Nicholls at a Living Wall in Tanzania

Quite simply, as in any other field, you have to evaluate your results. It is easy for conservation efforts to be undertaken with the best of intentions, only to find that there are unexpected negative consequences which put the whole project in question. Unfortunately, too many organizations want quick fixes and they don’t stick around to ensure that their efforts have the desired results.

That is certainly not the case with the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) in Tanzania, an organization I am proud to support. Dr Laly Lichtenfeld, Charles Trout and Elvis Kisimir of APW recently had a paper published in Biodiversity & Conservation, titled Evidence-based Conservation: Predator-proof Bomas Protect Livestock and Lions. The team evaluated their depredation data relating to large carnivore attacks on livestock in their study area, and found a significant decline in depredation events after the construction of fortified bomas (also known as Living Walls).

The fortified bomas prevent attacks on livestock by large carnivores and this prevents retaliatory attacks on carnivores by livestock owners. They reduce habitat destruction because they do not require repeated cutting of thorn bushes like traditional bomas, and they reduce the burden on women, because they require no maintenance. But significantly, they also found that the reduction in depredation events due to construction of fortified bomas, did not increase the number of carnivore attacks on non-fortified bomas or on livestock at pasture. Had this been the case, they could have been reducing depredation at the boma, only to increase it elsewhere. Instead, the evaluation of their long-term data showed that fortified bomas are an effective conservation tool and should be considered by other organizations aiming to reduce human-carnivore conflict.

And that is how you know conservation is working!

Donate to help APW continue their work on the Maasai Steppe!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11x14" © Alison Nicholls 2014

Sketching in the Dark in Tanzania by Alison Nicholls

Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11x14" © Alison Nicholls 2014

Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11×14″ © Alison Nicholls 2014

Tea by the Fire was possibly one of the most difficult sketches I’ve created, because I was sketching in near darkness. I had been invited into the home of a Maasai family to sketch, but when I got inside I couldn’t even see the chair I was offered, and I had no idea how many people were in the house, never mind whether they were men, women or children. I was doing pretty well with my KiMaasai greetings by this stage in my trip, so I was hoping to be able to say the correct greetings to the various members of the family according to their gender and age, but it is very difficult to greet people when you don’t know who they are or even where they are!

My eyes took a couple of minutes to adjust and then I could see 2 women and 2 children by the fire. There was a small opening high up on the wall which let the smoke out and a little light in. There were pots on the fire and soon we each had a lovely cup of hot milky tea. Gradually I was able to start putting pencil to paper and by the time I finished sketching, I could see the family and the contents of the house quite well. I wanted the sketch to show the darkness of the house and the tiny slivers of light from the window.

As I sketched, I was thinking about this amazing opportunity and how removed I felt from my normal life. I like to avoid the use of technology as much as possible during my travels in Africa. Its a kind of escape for me. But every now and again I would be reminded that technology reaches most places these days – a cellphone screen would briefly flood the house with a cold blinding light as one of the family members received an incoming call or text!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Watering the Cattle, field sketch 11x14" by Alison Nicholls

Watering the Cattle, Tanzania Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Watering the Cattle, field sketch 11x14" by Alison Nicholls

Watering the Cattle, watercolor field sketch 11×14″ by Alison Nicholls

“Cattle drank in lines at the trough then ambled away to graze; Maasai men leant against their sticks in the shade of the trees; donkeys, often fully loaded with water, stopped for a drink before heading home (often with no owner in sight); men flew past on bicycles down to the stream, filled their water containers then slowly pushed their bicycles back up the hill; children herded goats and sheep and stopped to stare (if they were brave they would come to see my sketch then talk and laugh as they left); whistles, shouts and cow bellows floated out across the karongo (stream).”   An excerpt from my Journal, June 11 2014, during my latest visit to the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania.

See more of my African Field Sketches, all of which are available for sale with a donation to African conservation. I also have a number of Seasonal Offers available until the end of December.
Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Celebration Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Celebration Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

This sketch does not feature your typical US Thanksgiving Day celebration!
In fact it is a sketch of Maasai men dancing at a wedding in Tanzania.

But all around the world, people everywhere celebrate important events. So I would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving by sharing this sketch with you, from a celebration of a different kind that I was lucky enough to attend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Milking Time Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls © 2014

Milking Time Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls © 2014

Milking Time was the 2nd of 3 sketches, created in just a few minutes while the Maasai women milked the cows in the morning. I asked them not to pose but just to go about their usual milking routine, so my time was limited for each sketch. I confess I had no idea that they could milk a cow so quickly, but lack of time is a great motivator and the sketches really did flow from my pencil.

Before I began sketching I did attempt to milk one of the cows myself. As I expected, it shied away from me. After all, I do look & sound completely different to the Maasai people it knows. But the reaction of that cow did save me from being exposed as being completely incompetent in the milking department. I think I’ll stick to sketching…

Thanks go to the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania for arranging this sketching opportunity for me. I was visiting APW for the 3rd time, learning more about their work with the communities of the Maasai Steppe. I’ve just sent copies of all my sketches back to Tanzania for the people who featured in them. To find out more about my visits to APW and to hear about my conservation-themed artwork, join me as I speak at The Explorers Club in New York City on September 29. Reservations are required.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Shimmer and Shukas Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Shimmer and Shukas Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Shimmer & Shukas was painted during a day-long Maasai ceremony in Loibor Siret, northern Tanzania. The women were dazzling in their vibrant shukas, covered with beaded necklaces, headbands, earrings, arm & ankle bracelets. As usual, I started my sketch with a very light pencil drawing and then, a couple of hours later, while the ceremony continued around me, I added the watercolor.

The ceremony itself was for a group of moran (warriors), who were embarking on the long process of becoming elders. The men had just finished drinking calabashes of milk and a slight halt was called in the proceedings while the cows headed out to pasture. I had asked permission to sketch and saw this group of women nearby, so I began. Their beaded jewelry is mostly white, with areas of blue & yellow, while small metal disks on thin chains hang from almost every piece – hence the “shimmer” in the title of the sketch. Painting white beads and shiny metal disks on white paper can be a challenge, so I didn’t paint them, instead I painted around them, using the colors of the dark skin and bright shukas to define the jewelry.

So why was I sketching in a Maasai engang (homestead) in Tanzania? Because I was revisiting the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW), an organization I have been supporting for several years now. APW has created numerous positive benefits for communities on the Maasai Steppe. Local children have the opportunity to attend an environmental summercamp and receive a scholarship for high school education. Human-wildlife conflict has been reduced by the innovative Living Walls program. Women’s groups can apply for grants to start a small business. The community has asked APW for, and received, data and environmental education, allowing them to make good long-term decisions about their land and water use. APW’s impact has been possible due to the creation of a permanent base in the area and their close links with local communities, who provide the vast majority of their staff.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing for me, was to be remembered by some of these friendly and welcoming people from my previous visits. They encouraged me to sketch and were always interested in seeing my work. I will be sending copies of my sketches back to APW so they can be given to all the people who were in them. Next week I’ll show you video of my work at the Loibor Siret school, but in the meantime I’d like to thank Dr Laly Lichtenfeld and Charles Trout for inviting me to return to Noloholo, and all the APW staff, particularly Joyce Ndakaru, for their help and support. Asanteni sana!

Learn more about the valuable work of the African People & Wildlife Fund on the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania.

See more of my African Field Sketches.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Living Walls drawing detail by Alison Nicholls © 2014

Living Walls drawing detail by Alison Nicholls © 2014

Every month I’ll write a post about the piece of art I am currently working on and I’ll show you an image or two. It would have been so much more elegant to call this monthly post “What’s on my easel?” but I work flat on a table, and ‘What’s on my Table” really doesn’t have an artistic ring to it, does it? So we will continue with “What am I working on”.

At the moment I’m working on a piece which will probably be titled “Living Walls in Tanzania”. It is another in my series of conservation-themed paintings and illustrates how the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania are helping protect livestock, predators and habitat with their popular ‘Living Walls’. In a nutshell, this is a program which helps Maasai families build stronger, maintenance-free bomas by using wire interspersed with living fenceposts of various Commiphora species (local trees). The use of a ‘living wall’ which grows around the wire eliminates the need to keep cutting fresh thorny brush to rebuild the boma every few months. The stronger boma prevents livestock being killed by predators at night, and the fact that predators are not killing livestock means retaliatory killing of predators is reduced.

Clever. But complicated. The Living Wall has so many impacts on people, their livelihood, the habitat and wildlife species. And putting this in a painting is proving to be equally complicated. The drawing above is a detail from the full piece, showing the wire of the fence, a predator (spotted hyena), livestock (a goat) and one of the living Commiphora fenceposts. A pencil drawing makes it look simpler than it will be once color is added to the equation. And that’s what comes next…lets hope my painting is as successful as the Living Walls program!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Elephant!, acrylic 20x30" by Alison Nicholls

Elephant!, acrylic 20×30″ by Alison Nicholls

Elephant!

Acrylic 20×30” by Alison Nicholls

Elephants provoke strong opinions. Tourists want to see them on safari and usually encounter calm, relaxed elephants in protected national parks, viewing them from the relative safety of a vehicle. However, rural-dwelling Africans are more likely to encounter elephants on foot, outside protected areas, in places and situations where elephants are more wary of, or aggressive towards, people. Children who have to pass elephant herds on their walk to school, or families whose crops are trampled and eaten by hungry elephants may feel fear and distrust rather than admiration and wonder when they see elephants.

Elephant! resulted from a conversation I had with Maasai men in Tanzania, while I visited the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) for my 2nd Conservation Sketching Expedition. The men looked through my sketchbook, seeing sketches of people, cattle and homesteads, but their first question to me was ‘are you afraid of elephants?’. The question made me think more about their encounters with elephants and resulted in this painting, which illustrates two contrasting views. The large head on the left of center is an elephant cow, painted in a relaxed pose, with her long, gently curved trunk leading to smaller images of the herd and a safari vehicle containing tourists. The washes of color used on this side of the painting have soft edges and there is a circular flow, down the elephant’s trunk, around the herd and towards the vehicle. In contrast the large elephant head on the right is an agitated bull. His ears are raised and his trunk curled, while his upturned tusks point towards 2 more bulls in similar poses, and a man attempting to keep the elephants away from his maize crop and home. On this side of the painting there are stronger reds and hard-edged washes, while the smaller elephants are angular and facing opposite directions.

Many of Africa’s elephants live or spend time outside protected reserves, alongside a growing human population, and as competition increases between people and wildlife over access to natural resources, human-wildlife conflict increases too. It is African people who will ultimately decide the fate of Africa’s wildlife and determine whether to accept the hazards of living beside Earth’s largest land mammal, so finding solutions that allow people & wildlife to share natural resources amicably is a high priority. Part of APW’s mission statement is to “support the collective management of natural resources for the mutual benefit of people and wildlife” and with the majority of their staff being residents of the local area, they are well placed to assist the community with plans to alleviate poverty, conserve biodiversity and reduce human-wildlife conflict – outcomes which will benefit both people and elephants.

The original acrylic painting of Elephant! is available for sale, priced at US$3200. If it is sold privately I will donate 30% of the sale price to APW. If it sells during an exhibition where the venue collects a commission (usually between 10-40%), APW will still receive a minimum of 10%. Limited edition giclées are also available with a 20% donation to APW from the sale of each piece.

Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.

See my Field Sketches from Tanzania.

Until next time…

Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale
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Nicholls Wildlife Art