Trampled child’s death motivates artist to tackle anti-poaching awareness

MATSULU – The death of a teenager who was shot in one of the game reserves near to his village in a poaching incident a few years ago and a child trampled to death by an elephant a while ago, motivated artist and actor Fanikie Mlombo to pioneer a conservation awareness festival.

“Because poaching is rife in our villages surrounded by the Kruger National Park and the Mthethomueha Game Reserve, our kids are vulnerable to rhino-horn dealers. It is true and very real to us that our sacred creatures, especially rhinos, are close to becoming extinct. We need to find ways to protect them,” said Mlombo.

As chairman of the Maweni Art and Craft Co-operative, he started an arts and cultural festival for participation by pupils of the four primary schools of Ndlaphu, Luphisi, Mpakeni and Lupisi.

The aim was to create awareness about the importance of conservation and anti-poaching.

On December 3 the fourth festival event was held by way of a carnival to make communities aware of the consequences of poaching.

Dance, poetry, painting, wire art as well as beading combined with soccer to keep the more than 500 people taking part in the festivities busy for the whole of Saturday.

The theme was “Let Us Protect and Save Our Rhinos”.

Fanikie Mlombo

Fanikie Mlombo

The co-operative worked with an organisation, Dreamfields, which organised the five-aside soccer games.

The carnival started with a parade from the Luphisi Community Hall to the Luphisi Sports Ground where four soccer games were held.

There were dance, poetry and stilt-walking performances in between the soccer games.

“It is vital that we do such events to create awareness. The adjacent communities and the kids are starting to realise the importance of the animals. They are now also aware of this cultural initiative and why it is important to take part,” said Mlombo.

He feels that almost all anti-poaching awareness campaigns are done in major cities while the problems are mostly prevalent in the rural areas.

“We need these campaigns most where the problems occur. It has proved to make a difference. The communities really enjoyed the festivities, especially the parade. The leaders of the villages even delivered some anti-poaching speeches during the event,” enthused Mhlambo.

He studied graphic design at the then Wits Technikon, and speech and drama at the Cuba Academy in Johannesburg.

He worked on productions for the Market Theatre and also performed in prestigious theatres outside the country such as in Germany.

His artwork has been exhibited internationally. As art teacher, he recently completed a mural on the cooperative’s outside walls with the children of the communities.

At present he is building a house from recycled bottles and bricks with kids attending his creative classes.

“The reason I came back was to plough back into these marginalised villages what I have learned in the cities. From here I want to reach out to the world that we can be joined in our endeavours to save our heritage.”

When he is not busy with art or culture projects at the co-operative, Mlombo is an actor in a soapie called Ngalutfota Jolumanti on Ligwalagwala FM.

“We don’t want to lose our animals and must use what we have to get this message across,” said Mlombo. “Art and culture can and should be used to promote efforts to make everybody aware of conservation.”

Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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