Set in the heart of Southern Maasailand, Shompole is hot and dry, but filled with a wide diversity of birds, reptiles, and large mammals. All of the "Big Five" can be found there – with the exception of rhinos. The Ewaso Ng’iro river brings water from the Mau highlands to feed the wildlife, people and their livestock who peacefully coexist. Located almost half-way between the Amboseli National Park and the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the area plays an important role as a wildlife corridor between the two.
The Shompole ecosystem is unique in that it is not a National Park, but owned and managed by the Maasai people.
Liz Gilbert is a jewelry designer and professional photographer with over 20 years of experience working in Africa. Gilbert first traveled to Kenya as a photojournalist, covering the Somali and Rwandan wars for news agencies based in Paris and New York. She is also the author of two books documenting African culture, ‘"Broken Spears’" and "Tribes of the Great Rift Valley."
During her time in Kenya, Gilbert became intrigued by the Maasai, whose home is in southern Kenya. She ended up living and traveling with the tribe (and writing about their culture in "Broken Spears.)
“My time spent with the Maasai allowed me to be part of a natural African world that had been elusive during my years in cities,” says Gilbert whose business venture focuses on another one of her passions: African jewelry and beadwork, and preserving artisan traditions that are fast disappearing.
Turning a passion into a deed, in 2007, Gilbert founded the ‘Shompole Collection’ in Nairobi, Kenya. She based the project on a simple concept: to conserve and support African goldsmith and beading traditions by producing tribal jewelry reinterpreted to suit Western tastes. The resulting pieces Gilbert and her collective of craftsmen create are authentic, beautiful, beautifully crafted, and complement the fashions of today.
What’s more, Shompole provides livelihoods for self-employed Kenyan artists, while keeping a centuries-old tradition going.
In other words, the ethos of the Shompole Collection is keeping with that of the Slate Gray Gallery, which is all about making a different in the local communities which are its home base: Telluride, Colorado, and Kerrville, Texas.
Slate Gray is where “art” rhymes with “heart.” Owner Beth McLaughlin and her staff are dedicated to transforming sales of the work at the venue into a financial leg-up for local artists and artistic endeavors where they live.