An American in Khayelitsha

An American in Khayelitsha

Jami Wright recently spent some weeks at IFAW’s Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Cape Town, volunteering and documenting in pictures the work they do there. Jami researched human-animal conflict surrounding wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies while completing her M.A. in Cultural Anthropology and describes the human-animal relationship as very significant in her adult life. Recently, she says, she has begun to appreciate the power of image in communication and has thus perused photography. Jami, her husband, their two dogs and cat live just outside Bozeman, Montana in the United States of America. You can view more of her work at www.jamiwright.com. This is Jami’s description of her visit to South Africa.

I arrived in Cape Town, after 36 hours in flight, from the United States. Montana to be exact. It is cold where I live, very cold, and there are not many people, probably because it is so cold. Animals are a part of most people’s lives here and there is a lot of space for them, domestic and wild. It looks like two Montana’s fit into one South Africa, and we don’t even have a million people here! Let’s just say it is very different from Khayelitsha!

My husband gifted me a photography workshop through an awesome organisation called Momenta which gave me the opportunity to photograph the Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha, Cape Town for two weeks. I was VERY excited! I love learning about new cultures, helping animals, and photography! It was an amazing gift.

I stayed in Cape Town and took an Uber into Khayelitsha every day. The Uber drivers were always wondering why I was going to Khayelitsha – it’s not really a tourist destination for women travelling alone - but I am very grateful for my experience there. I found the people to be warm, down to earth, and surprisingly alive despite the challenges associated with living in a township.

Mdzananda had inspired me from the start, well, from its start really. I loved the story of Mr Joe donating his days to caring for animals in the community. That was more than 20 years ago now, and today Mdzananda provides a fully-fledged primary veterinary service to animal owners. I also align greatly with Mdzananda’s community outreach programme that strives to educate people about how to have more fulfilling lives with their hopefully beloved pets. Changing cultural beliefs and practices within a community is a massive task, and Mdzananda has made real progress. As humans, I believe we gain so much from having animals in our lives and also have so much to learn through these relationships.

Mdzananda has made true progress in Khayelitsha through spaying and neutering as well as community outreach. Shifting people’s relationships to animals is very challenging. The people at Mdzananda work tirelessly for the animals and people in their community. It was truly a blessing to witness this, an experience that I will not forget. I am very grateful to have been able to contribute to an organisation with these values and would do so in the future if given the opportunity. Thank you Mdzananda! 

--JW

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