If a picture paints a thousand words, then there is no better way to capture the memories of an African safari than through art, writes Liesl Venter.

“For a safari traveller seeking priceless and lasting memories and perhaps something a little different to the regular safari, an art safari is perfect,” says Janine Southwood, head of Personal Collection by Thompsons Africa.

Kim Sparrow of Art of Africa says art classes are a fun and relaxing way of connecting to the environment, interacting with the people and the scenery around. “Clients are now searching for travel that is mindful and connected. Art provides the opportunity for non-invasive and collaborative sessions in both cultural and natural settings, enhancing one’s African experience.”

The art safari concept, says Henk Graaff, MD of SW Africa, is relatively new. “It’s still considered a novelty and niche experience.”

“Our interactive workshops ignite and fulfil cultural curiosity off the beaten track, in the African bush,” says Megan Conn, Marketing and Creative Director for Bushtracks, which offers art safaris in Zimbabwe. The safaris combine a variety of elements, including a private tutor to assist with the art and one of the local chief’s sons giving cultural input. “It allows for real immersion in a culture,” says Conn. “We also include a traditional meal to conclude the workshop.”

Bushtracks offers a variety of well-chosen art locations from a village on the outskirts of Victoria Falls to a boat cruise on the Zambezi.

Be it oils, watercolours, sketches or even beading or finger painting, the art safari enables participants to take a piece of Africa home in the form of their art. “The value is that this piece of Africa comes in each and every person's own shade of expression,” explains Conn.

Gold mine potential

According to Southwood the art safari provides the opportunity for tourists to translate the personal visuals they experience into an intimate presentation on canvas. “It becomes a part of your guest’s travelling diary. One can also conclude that it’s a great memory translated into a personal art piece, and often becomes a focal point of discussions surrounding formal and informal get-togethers.”

She says the market is untapped though, with only a few select suppliers. “We are seeing increased requests, however, to tailor make an art experience. This offering has the potential to manifest into a gold mine, with the number of tourists seeking a more aspirational experience while traversing Africa’s myriad landscapes.”

Graaff says for special interest and incentive groups, art experiences make the itinerary exciting, different and memorable. “An art class, organised by a local artist, can lift up the itinerary to a wow experience.”

Immersive experience

“Through observation, art provides an intimate and personal relationship with one's surroundings, allowing for a fully immersed and holistic experience,” says Sparrow. “We use the channels of creativity to experience Africa in an entirely unique light, expressing one's own experience through brush and canvas.

“Creativity is intrinsic within all of us, and the opportunity for freedom of expression is extremely rare in everyday life. To provide the platform to awaken clients’ inner artist is an unforgettable adventure within themselves. Despite the result of the artwork, the time spent creating it is a journey in itself,” she says.

According to Graaff art safaris often go hand-in-hand with wellness experiences, resulting in therapeutic and inspirational trips

An element that contributes to a successful art safari is the size of the group, says Southwood. Smaller numbers are the key to personalised attention.