‘Climate action is whatever you think it is, and whatever you think it can be,’ says local artist 

Embroidery artist Ophelia Dos Santos explains how she found her role in climate activism, without getting arrested

Ophelia Dos Santos delivering a speech for Oxfam

Embroidery artist and climate activist Ophelia Dos Santos has a lot to say about climate protesting, as there is a lot more at stake for people of colour

“I agree that activism is needed,” said the 24-year-old during the run up to an Extinction Rebellion protest last month.

“However, protesting is more inaccessible for anyone who isn’t white. You can’t ask someone who is black to do something that could cause suspicion.”

She fortunately hasn’t experienced negativity for being mixed race, but she knows for other people in Cardiff this isn’t the case. 

This gave her the inspiration to host textile workshops in her grandfather’s old carpentry studio.

Coming from a family of artists; her grandfather was a carpenter, and her father a stonemason, her pursuit to explore her artistic skills was always encouraged. 

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Identity crisis

Even though she has roots in Cape Verde, it took Dos Santos a while to recognise her heritage. While growing up her main focus was on her Cleft lip which was an insecurity throughout her teenage years. 

She said, “Growing up I always had an identity crisis; though my school was predominantly white, and I am a very fair mixed-race person, race didn’t even cross my mind. It was a privilege that I had that I didn’t have to acknowledge.”

It was during environmentalism meetings that Dos Santos realised she would be the only person who could identify as non-white. 

Although she didn’t associate her identity with being different, she realised why she was uncomfortable in certain situations. 

“If you are going to prioritise profit over people and planet, that is not sustainable”

She highlighted that action only by white people, ignores other people’s backgrounds, and there is so much to learn from black, brown, and indigenous cultures, especially about climate change.

Dos Santos acknowledged there are many people from this community in Cardiff that are unable to partake in climate protests.

She said, “It’s important to highlight that climate action is whatever you think it is, and whatever you think it can be.”

Dos Santos’ workshop, which she inherited from her grandfather who was a local carpenter in Cardiff
People and planet 

The artist is considerate with her choice of  brand collaborations, and her recent partnership with Vans was a difficult decision to make. 

“If you are going to prioritise profit over people and planet, that is not sustainable. 

“But having that platform to be in front of the Vans store to talk about my work and climate, I like to think that the positive message outweighs the negative impact.” she said.

Dos Santos is always eager to think of the future  and is currently considering a master’s degree in religious studies and ethics. 

She said, “Only now I can make sense of why studying this would be related to my work in fashion and climate activism.

“We are in this society where it is rise and grind, and if you’re having too much fun, you’re doing it wrong. You can have the best of both worlds; I still have so much time, what’s the rush?”

Ophelia’s “No-rush” recommendations


  • Today in Focus- The Guardian
  • All the Small Things- Venetia La Manna
  • The Receipts Podcast- Spotify 


  • No Logo- Naomi Klein
  • All About Love- Bell Hooks 
  • Nature is a Human Right- Ellen Miles