Tswalu Kalahari is a magical place with its ancient landscapes characterized by the magnificent Korannaberg mountains and rolling dunes. The clear night skies, pristine landscapes, and desert-adapted fauna and flora all combine to make Tswalu a spiritual experience that only the unique Kalahari can create. The vast areas of red sand, shrubs and tall trees are home to an amazing variety of wildlife, specially adapted to survive in harsh, dry conditions. The property significantly contributes to conservation of species and ecosystems in the Northern Cape, including numerous rare and endangered species.

The reserve has a strong community and conservation ethic, with numerous research projects that have been sanctioned by the Oppenheimer family. The Tswalu Foundation was created in 2008 to develop a platform upon which local and international visitors could contribute and become involved in community work and environmental research on the reserve. The Foundation has been fundamental in developing a greater appreciation for the beauty of the Kalahari and its diverse and abundant wildlife. Although Tswalu Kalahari and the Oppenheimer family support numerous research projects, the Foundation ensures that more researchers are afforded the opportunity to study this unique land.

One of the programmes managed through the Tswalu Foundation is the Artists in Residence Programme (AiR), which was initiated in 2015 with the idea of further supporting research on Tswalu through the generation of income for research as well as providing artists an opportunity to be inspired by Tswalu. The selection of the artists to join the Tswalu Foundation AiR programme is guided by Mark Read and his incredible team at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg. Together we are showcasing the depth and talent of South African artists as well as uncovering new artistic talent. The importance of artists portraying and depicting this vulnerable landscape should not be underestimated. Art portrays the natural world in varying forms, from the intimate to the majestic, and evokes the mood and feeling of a place. The beauty, magnificence and, in some cases, hardships of an area are clearly reflected through art. AiR is important to the family as it broadens the depth and scope of the Foundation beyond pure science and adds hugely to its long-term sustainability.

Gillian Condy was the senior botanical artist at the South African National Biodiversity Institute for almost 35 years. As an active freelance artist for over 40 years and a botanical teacher for 25 of those years, Gill is no stranger to the art world. She has participated in over 140 exhibitions worldwide, including the Royal Horticultural Society, London, where she has received seven Gold and four Silver-gilt Medals.

Soon after retirement in December 2017, Gill curated the South Africa leg of the first Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg, where 26 countries across the world held simultaneous exhibitions. That November she was appointed AiR at the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve and made eight trips to the reserve to illustrate the plants over the next 14 months. The Covid lockdown proved to be a blessing as it offered the perfect opportunity to focus on completing artworks begun at Tswalu, as well as other works – a very productive time with an exciting new chapter ahead.

Nicky Oppenheimer