Artists Olly and Suzi on their latest expedition

Tanzania's Mkomazi National Park is the inspiration behind a new body of work from the creative duo – a project 20 years in the making

Olly Williams and Suzi Winstanley have been working together collaboratively since they met at St Martin's School of Art in London in 1987. They track, paint and photograph endangered species and landscapes in the wild. Over the past 29 years, they've exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide, including a year-long retrospective at the Natural History Museum, and have also been the subject of a BBC Storyville documentary. Here, the two discuss the new body of work they're completing this year, based on two decades of journeying to the same part of Tanzania.

Olly: We're passionately involved with looking at certain areas that we revisit and one of those key places is Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania. For the past 21 years, we've been painting and interacting with the endangered wild dogs there and working closely with East African preservationist Tony Fitzjohn and his wife Lucy.

Suzi: Mkomazi has been incredibly important to us as artists. The park is near Kilimanjaro and last year we started a new body of work focusing solely on the landscape.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Olly: Mkomazi was one of the first-ever trips we made as artists together. Tony is famous for his work with George Adamson of the Born Free story. Tony was invited by the Tanzanian government in 1989 to take over a ravaged hunting block about the size of Surrey; in 2008 it was established as a national park. Mkomazi is a metaphor for how African conservation can be done ­– it includes community and educational outreach programmes, but it's primarily a massive tract of beautiful wild land that's kept wild for the animals. Tony and Lucy and their loyal team of local Tanzanians have been the instigators in this success and though we started off visiting to get close to the wild dogs there, we've now become deeply passionate about helping the cause. Everyone just needs to protect their little piece of the world – and Fitz and Lucy are doing just that.

Fitz and his team have not lost a single rhino to poaching. He's working to protect and help breed and grow the black rhino population in the face of a pan-African war on rhino horn, which is now worth more than its weight in gold.

Suzi: In many ways, Mkomazi is our life's work. It's where we started – our first collaborative expedition was into East Africa and up in the north of Kenya. It set the pattern for how we work – we'll engage with an expert in the field, track a predator and then revisit time and time again. That's how we approach all our expeditions. We like to go in deeply, in the same practice as Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, who go off on long walks to make their work… our expeditions are very much like that. We go in search of "ground truth". We identify areas that are under threat and that's where our art comes from.

What we've now done with the Mkomazi landscapes is create a new body of work. The last time we were there we recorded the place in sketches and photographs and then we came back into the studio and the landscapes just happened – an expression of something we've known intimately for more than 20 years.

Olly: Working in the studio was interesting because for 12 years [from 1993 to 2005], we worked solely in the Bush.

Suzi: The new work is based largely on the drawings we did in our sketchbooks – a combination of what's there and our imagination and what we feel about it. You know it's interesting, because I always used to think when I was out in the field that being in a studio would make us feel in some way restricted. But having worked in both environments for almost 30 years, I realise there are no constraints on the imagination.

Follow Olly and Suzi's Instagram at @ollysuzi, and find out more about their art at

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.