Anthony Russell is possibly best known for developing and executing the Shompole Concept in East Africa. For those who haven’t been there yet, Shompole is the most exceptional and much copied community conservation project as well as ultra luxury African lodge hotel. Shompole itself is a shared ownership, community empowering model based on the old adage: ‘don’t give people fish, but a rod to catch their own with’. Russell initially approached the elders of the group ranch committee with a unique proposal: that they make 10,000 ha of land and natural materials available for the development, in exchange of being partners in the project and collecting conservation fees from the business’s high end tourists that visit the Shompole conservancy.
He says he did not have any architectural drawings but built by the eye and innate feel, developing one suite first, with the rest evolving organically. The idea was to make an area that is not a natural tourist destination seductive. He used local materials for the most part; volcanic rock quartz rock and dead standing fig wood and imaginative ways of water flow in the suites and importing other material that wasn’t available locally. “With limited amount of elements you become very creative” he says. Today, Shompole is a magnificent testament to creativity and much copied too. The inside elements being on the outside and vice versa, the curves the uniform whiteness, the paired down minimal furnishing the water features, have all been replicated in a number of private lodges throughout East Africa.
Does he mind? No, he says it’s a positive thing and a compliment. His model is being duplicated in Kenya and Tanzania and community conservation projects are sprouting all over Africa. He is currently developing a second one near the islands of Lamu on the East African coast. His new passion however, is a collaborative art project with iconic fashion photographer Raphael Mazzucco. The END OF THE LION is a photographic art exhibition based on collages of old photographs (from Russells’ father’s archives) and contemporary images shot by both artists. It debuted in Singapore, with 37 pieces sold to date, each of them totally unique. Russell is passionate about Africa rainforest conservation. His collaboration with Mazzucco is a continuing one and they are hoping to exhibit their works in other parts of the world too.