Drinking dark-red cow blood, more than two-dozen piglets and a large sow wallowed in a pool of gore outside the gates of the parliament buildings in Nairobi, Kenya on May 14, 2013. Each had the word “MPig” daubed on its side, and when the real MPs (Kenyan members of Parliament) tried to pass, they found their way blocked by protestors, pigs, press and police, the last of which then began clearing the area with tear gas and water cannons. This was “Occupy Parliament,” a protest against Kenyan MPs preparing to vote themselves a 60-percent pay rise that would have left them earning 70 times the average Kenyan wage. The motion passed, but photographs of the grisly protest were published worldwide and sparked national debate, partly about the treatment of livestock.
“People worried about the pigs, but nobody was anxious about us,” says Boniface Mwangi, 30, the activist and photographer who helped organize the demonstration. There were no animals at the next protest, one month later, but the earlier event was invoked with a huge porcine effigy, more cow blood, and mock banknotes illustrated with pigs instead of people. This time the MPs responded, abandoning their pay rise for equivalent allowances for cars and pensions. It was a minor concession made remarkable since, in a country of 43 million people, neither rally had gathered more than 250 protestors. “What does it matter when you bring a lot of people but don’t say anything important?” asks Mwangi. “Symbolic activism is more powerful than big crowds.”
From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.