Last week we made a visit to a skate park in inner-city Johannesburg to document and find out more about skating in the area. The skate park operates from Drill Hall, a heritage site and former military base located on Twist & Plein street, opposite the MTN taxi rank. Quincy Moyo the manager of the skate park has established a skateboarding academy called One Love Skate Expo to teach inner-city kids (ages ranging fro 8 to 13 years) how to skate. And with the facilitation of the older skaters they run a number of diverse projects for the kids to empower them, educate them and help them expand their horizons.
Skateboarding in South Africa is often misunderstood and has a negative public perception therefore in order to broaden the perspective of skateboarding I thought speaking to the skaters would lighten some of the dark haze surrounding the sport. This is what Kyle Kheswa, 19, who has been skateboarding for 9 years had to say about what the sport means to him, "for me, and I think for a lot of people, in its truest essence, skateboarding is freedom of expression. Skateboarding is a sensation, its a feeling, more than an activity, its like an energy almost spiritual and you cant really explain it to someone who hasn't experienced it."
When asked what he thinks draws people to the sport, Kyle explains that; "different people get into skateboarding for different reasons, now its starting to become a trend - which it hasn't always been. Competitions are also starting to become very popular, a lot of kids are entering to win, a lot of kids are entering to be cool and a lot of kids are entering because skateboarding looks fun. When you get into skateboarding and after being part of it for a while, you have a mindset change, you realise that this is bigger than just winning a competition and being cool or having an extra-curricular activity or an after school hobby."
The skaters understand that there are still a few social stigmas attached to the sport such as the associations with drug abuse, the prohibitions on skating in public spaces that criminalise the activity; public perceptions of skaters as being deviants or nuisances but for them the sport serves an outlet to keep them away from trouble or from the streets and they feel that the sport should be and could be taken more seriously as a career path.
Lucky Dlangalala, 24, goes on to say, " skating is supposed to be a career but here in Africa it is taken as a hobby, in other parts of the world, people are treating it as a career, people are making a living off it. There are major international competitions where people win lots of money, but you come here, the skating community is very small and skating parks are far and few."
Then he adds "we are still pushing for it to be taken seriously as a career path, if something like soccer can progress from being a hobby to a career, then why can't skateboarding?"
Photography: Hanro Havenga
Writing: Phendu Kuta