Ethiopia’s Skateboarding Community Sends a Love Letter to “The Streets, Our Playground”

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Yared Gobezie, Ruel Desta, and Bamlak Tesfa—all self-taught skateboarders turned photographers—are getting ready to launch their joint enterprise, which allowed them to become part of their chosen family.

A photography exhibition titled “The Streets, Our Playground” aims to capture the strength and beauty of Ethiopia’s nascent and rapidly growing skateboarding community. The women-led Ethiopian Girl Skaters group made headlines worldwide just a year ago for how teenage girls met one another naturally and enjoyably through skating. To reflect the love and support they have received from the community, the guys who represent this tiny but devoted group of skaters have now delved into new artistic realms.

The East African area is relatively new to skateboarding as a sport and cultural activity; the discipline began gaining traction in the early 2000s. Over the past ten years, it has experienced exponential growth and gained popularity among young Ethiopians of all genders. The charity group Ethiopia Skate works with The Streets, Our Playground, to promote skateboarding in Ethiopia.

Not a single skater in the show considers themselves to be a photographer. The sincere desire to document their happy experience with the new sport and spread it to the community inspired this display’s creation, which significantly enhanced the experience. After decades of relationship-building with Ethiopia Skate, Gobezie and Desta are still skating. Gobezie recalls, “I liked it so much that it developed into something more than skateboarding.” “It became a community, way of life and culture.” Many find solace in their chosen family in difficult and unfavorable social, personal, and environmental situations.

Before photographers and videographers started shooting pictures of them, the group started taking pictures of each other using their iPhones. They were motivated to be more creative by this. Gobezie adds, “I wanted to elaborate on this knowledge because I realized we were fortunate to be around it.” He came up with a film camera at a charity shop and decided to give it a go.

It’s understandable why skateboarding has gained such a following in Ethiopia. Desta says, “It’s a unique outlet to express ourselves and be creative in our city.” The absence of a functional and well-maintained infrastructure has also significantly contributed to the sport’s increasing popularity, even if a sense of independence and community involvement are high on the list. According to Desta, we utilize skating as a practical form of transportation because the roads are still being developed, and the traffic is worsening.

Gobezie continues, “It’s also a place where young Ethiopians can feel unrestrained.” Unfortunately, skating sounds like an intelligent method to obtain independence from poverty or other structural issues. It’s the ideal vacation. It has a more extraordinary effect on people than other sports. They believe that since the organization is renowned for being devoid of bias, everyone may enjoy the streets as a playground, regardless of background.

A skateboarder is hanging on to the back of a motorized scooter as it travels down the road. Bringing skateboarders from around the nation together is one of the main goals of the display. Desta says, “I want to respect skateboarding culture.” “It’s a thriving subculture with its style, artwork, and history—it’s not just a sport.”

Each member is invited to provide their viewpoint as a group. Gobezie remarks, “I’ve noticed that, sometimes, a photo is more than just a photo.” “It’s a memory; it contains experiences; it’s associated with both accomplishments and losses.”

With crowdsourcing and some government financing, the images also document the evolution of skateboarding in Ethiopia over the past ten years. Gobezie said, “There weren’t any skate parks or well-maintained roads when we started. There wasn’t even any infrastructure for skaters.” Since nobody was aware of skateboarding, we didn’t get along with each other very well. We’ve put forth a lot of effort to get acknowledged. This display demonstrates our progress. Adult skaters who were only children at first are seen.

Although the Ethiopian community has demonstrated the beauty of togetherness, the local government might still play an essential and legal role in providing support. Desta believes they might contribute in several ways, including developing safe and accessible areas for skill practice and demonstration and building and maintaining Olympic-standard skate parks around the nation. He continues, “Our local skate organizations receive financial support, grants, and resources to maintain facilities and support skating at a grassroots level.” The skaters will carry on the tradition for the time being. “Those of us from here are the ones who keep the parks built, developed, and maintained,” Gobezie asserts.

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