Vegans, Pet Lovers, ‘Invade’ White Spaces

Article originally posted on Mail & Guardian

Kenesias Dambakurima used to stage one-man protests along Cape Town’s freeways, holding up his “Save the Rhino” placard. He did this because, he says, “animals, they just need our voice, you know?”

That was five years ago. He has been a vocal campaigner for animal rights since about 2011, but being a black animal rights activist is still seen as something of a curiosity, he says.

“Whenever I go to animal rights events, they are always dominated by white people. And the first question you get asked by white people is: ‘How did you get involved?’ They don’t ask each other how they got involved in animal rights activism. But they will ask you, the black person. There will be this unspoken thing of ‘this is ours; this animal thing is ours’. It is quite a challenge.”

The 35-year-old has gone on to establish the animal rights organisation Voices for African Wildlife. As the head of an organisation, “sometimes you are the one to organise the events. But, if you are not the one organising the event, you feel like you are just there to make the event colourful, you know? For people to see that there are also blacks involved.”

Tebogo Maleka says it is always a surprise for white people when they find out she is vegan. “I get asked a lot of questions; almost like they are checking to see I know exactly what I am talking about when I say I’m vegan. It’s a completely foreign concept [to them] that I am black and vegan,” she says.

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