Cape Town - A black yoga enthusiast has spoken out about the “toxic racism” that exists within the yoga community in Cape Town, saying white people are acting like they invented the discipline which originated in ancient India.
Kaufi Awoonor, a former employee at Yoga Zone in Gardens, used social media to detail an ordeal she said she experienced from colleague William Lindeque. They both worked at the studio.
Awoonor said it was a hot day in December last year when Lindeque told her, “it’s really hot today, let’s pretend we’re at the plantation so you can fan me”.
Awoonor said that being from Ghana, a country that was destroyed by slavery, the comment was both disgusting and insensitive.
When Awoonor took it up with Lindeque and the owner of the studio, Fulvio Grandin, she was dismissed and made to feel like what was said wasn’t an issue.
Yoga Zone responded on social media by publishing a statement, which said the incident had left them shocked, and it has been deeply taxing on all parties.
“Also relevant is that the offending party had immediately apologised to Kafui and did so numerous times verbally and in writing.
"The person took immediate and full responsibility for their actions and the hurt it caused and tried to reconcile with Kafui various times over a number of days," they said.
Awoonor said she experienced further discrimination when she was threatened if she “took it further”.
Awoonor said an unfair dismissal case was settled in March, and a case of discrimination was ruled in favour of her former employee earlier this month.
She has chosen to speak out about the issue now - something she should have done in December, she said.
“This is about white people considering themselves allies, and because they decided they know who they are, they can’t look past their prejudices.
“Just because you don’t blatantly call someone the k-word doesn’t mean you’re not racist," she said.
“This happened in a community that’s supposed to be about well-being, acceptance, healing and inclusion. These are people pretending and carrying on with pseudo-spirituality and causing damage and getting away with it.
“If you look at the structure, you will think yoga was something invented by white people. It is just another thing they are disrespecting and appropriating,” Awoonor said.