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Sue StolbergerSue Stolberger   AFC Sue Stolberger
African Wildlife in Oils and Watercolours
Susan was born in Jamaica in November 1959, but when she was four years old, her parents moved to Tanzania, East Africa. She grew up enjoying the pristine beach north of Dar es Salaam and often, during the holidays, the family went to the wonderful Game Parks. These trips to the wilderness, were without doubt, a great influence on Sue's desire to make a career from art and wildlife.

Sue began painting seriously after leaving school and at the age of eighteen, she had her first exhibition in Nairobi, Kenya. By the time she was 22, she had decided she wanted to make a life-time career as a wild-life artist, and so took herself off to Italy to learn what she could from the great masters. She remained here for two years, and from this point on she never wavered from her dream.

Everything she did was funded by what ever she could make from selling her paintings, and so when she returned to East Africa, her adventures in the bush with her paint brushes began. Going off, alone, in her jeep to the places she thought would be interesting, she continued to develop her artistic skills, painting only from life and sketching all the while. The more remote, and inaccessible the place was the more she liked it. Her quest for adventure, together with her desire to paint, has created a life full of wonderful experiences in the African bush.

Sue, always works exclusively in the field and over the past 27 years, she has lived and worked in National Parks in Tanzania and Kenya. For many years she worked from her mobile camp that could be set up anywhere, sleeping under the stars with just a net for protection and working under a fly-sheet to keep the sun off. She spent two years painting scenes in North eastern Kenya of the nomadic Somalis and their camels, this was dangerous country, where bandits roamed, but she never encountered any trouble. Another project saw her living alongside the Maasai tribes people making collections of paintings for exhibition. She spent 4 years captivated by the scenery and wildlife in Tsavo West National Park, with a fabulous view of the magnificent Mt Kilimanjaro. Two more years were spent in Tarangire National Park, in Tanzania. In 1992 she did a solo drive, which took over six months to complete, from East Africa to Namibia and back. These are just a few of the places she has put down in paint.

For the past sixteen years, Sue has been living and working in the Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania. A place she remembers well from her childhood. Her studio is a camp on the banks of the Great Ruaha River. She finds the peace and solitude of the remote area, not only conducive to painting, but the best way to learn and observe from the vast array of wildlife that surrounds her home. She sketches continuously, and never ceases to be inspired and enthralled by diversity of light, colour, patterns and designs that nature conjures up.

"My motivation is to direct the viewer's attention to the fascinating design and beauty surrounding us in the natural world. The patterns and combinations of colours used in display and camouflage are all so perfect in their detail. I like to focus on a subject to highlight it's design, which can be almost abstracted from its form and yet still be part of its environment."

"In addition to the more design-orientated paintings, I also like to capture fleeting moments, for that is all they ever are: the constantly changing light, the seasons, and the mood. Although the overall effect may be different, my interest in composition and design always remains paramount."

She exhibits around the world, having had numerous solo shows and combined exhibiitons, in London, New York, and Johannesburg to name a few.

Sue is also actively involved with conservation projects in the buffer zones surrounding the Park.


I do not accept commissions, however, when clients are interested in a particular subject, I send photos of work I have done that may interest them.

Support for Conservation:
1993 was the first year that the Great Ruaha River stopped flowing in the dry season, the signs had been there in the years prior, but no-one paid any attention.

In 1994, I started to closely monitor the dates of the river drying up, and the rainfall. It is not my 'job'—I am just very concerned. In the process, two very important facts immerged: (a) it's getting worse each year, and (b) local rainfall has little effect on the actual flow of the river except when it is flooding.

The pattern is always the same. In the height of the dry season, when the water is at it's lowest, the rice schemes up-river flood their paddies. One of the worst aspects of this is that, although VAST AREAS ARE SUBMERGED IN WATER, NOT ALL PADDIES ARE UTILIZED, AND THEY OFTEN LIE WASTED. Recently, the time for flooding has been brought forward, that is, earlier in the dry season. This enables the stake holders to obtain higher prices for their rice, though the YIELD IS CONSTANT. This earlier season depletes the water reserve downstream sooner, therefore, in the Ruaha National Park. The river dries up earlier leaving increasingly longer periods of drought. To compound the issue, there are approximately 400,000 head of cattle utilizing the swamp area.

There are many points to be made but the DFID team based in Rujewa (SUMWC) has done an excellent job of this—no stone has been left unturned. For three years, the project has been endeavouring to find the cause of the cessation of flow of the Great Ruaha River, and after spending approximately 3.2 million Sterling Pounds, they have come to the SAME conclusion—that perhaps it is the rice schemes (which consume 100% of the water in the dry season) that are responsible for devastating the ecology of the Great Ruaha River.

With this view point, the SUMWC team have now thrown in the towel, saying that the matter has become too political and nothing can be done. The Ruaha National Park has been advised to obtain "water rights" in an effort to regain some water for the now dry Ruaha River.

I fail to see: (a) what is the good of obtaining water rights for water that doesn't exist; and (b) How the other stake holders, who have "water rights" have managed to deplete the river completely?

In the mean time, the picture in the Ruaha National Park is one of disaster. This beautiful paradise—once brimming with exotic life—is being eroded away at an alarming rate.

It is important that all stake holders are made to face up to the seriousness of the situation and take the initiative to make the necessary compromises on the short term financial gain. Regulations must be implemented to ensure that there is some flow re-instated into the Ruaha River during the dry season. I have noted this year, that a flow of approximately one foot wide by one centimeter deep was enough to keep the existing pools with enough fresh water to keep the fish alive, and keep it good enough for the animals to drink. SURELY one can BEG for such a minute amount of water to continue through the channels!

Unless the situation of the Usangu Catchment area is taken under control, it seems likely that the rest of Tanzania's valuable water reserves will follow a similar fate. One only has to look at Ethiopia and Kenya to see how devastating mismanagement of water resources is to National development. We are all aware of the massive mistakes that have taken place globally, we know the pitfalls, and Usangu is a classic example. How then can the SUMWC team justify their defeat! When are people going to be made responsible for their actions?

If Tanzania is to continue to develop for a better future the ONE resource that lies at the heart of all life is WATER. So, instead of seeking more and more water by different and more desperate means, efforts should be made to control our demand, and cut down on the rampant waste that we see everywhere.

It is imperative, for the survival of the Nation that we learn to manage water as a crucial ingredient to our survival. The Usangu Catchment Project should be used as a role model leading the way for the rest of Tanzania. Only then, will the 3.2 Million Pounds Sterling spent on the project be justified.

Sue Stolberger is also Hon Treasurer Friends of Ruaha Society


  • "The Ruaha Sketch Book" (2003)
    Author and illustrator, - In Susan's new book, "The Ruaha Sketch Book", she has managed to capture with her brush, delightful moments and very special thoughts of the everunfolding environment around her. This is a highly visual account captured with pencil sketches and water colours which depict the seasonal variations within the Ruaha National Park. This book is a tribute to one of Africa's last remaining wildernesses.

    The book has 220 pages (27cm x 29cm) and over 200 water colour studies together with numerous pencil sketches throughout the text. The book is limited to 1000 copies of which 40 are numbered and quarter bound in goatskin and hand-marbled paper, with silk head and tail bands in a matching slip case. (ISBN 0-620-29256-3 and 960 copies case bound in snowdon linen bookcloth, head and tail bands with a ribbon book mark.(ISBN 0-620-29256-3)

    Author: Sue Stolberger
Organization Membership:
  • Friends of Ruaha Society
    Sue is also actively involved with the Friends of Ruaha Society, and in conservation projects in the buffer zones surrounding the Park, (www.friendsofruahasociety.org)



Direct Correspondence to:Sue Stolberger
Sue Stolberger
Ruaha National Park, PO Box 369
IRINGA, Iringa District
Tanzania East Africa
Tel: o754 914472
  Artists for Conservation Group
Email: suestol@fastmail.fm
Home Page: http://www.suestolberger.com
Sue Stolberger Sue Stolberger

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