Three weeks ago we made a visit to a skate park in inner-city Johannesburg (Drill Hall) to document and find out more about skating in the area.
In further delving into some of the preconceived notions of skateboarding I discovered that another generalisation is that many skateboarders in the area are unemployed or they do not wish to work, however I found that these generalisations are not true for everyone. Kabelo Tshilwane who is a regular skater at Drill Hall explains that although he works as a Lighting Technician and has had an opportunity to work with well-known club Bassline and is currently working with the popular band, The Muffinz, he still regards skating as his life.
He goes on to say that "Skating is not a choice, its not a hobby, its a lifestyle. If you wake me up at 3 am, and ask me who I am, I'll tell you, I'm a skater. If I eat, I eat like a skater, if I sleep, I sleep like a skater. This is not something I do part time, this is what I do every day, if I'm not at work, you'll find me here with the kids."
I was quite intrigued by the fact that they teach young kids how to skate and was also quite curious as to why this mattered to them. Kabelo clarifies, "at first we were just a bunch of guys skating, so we just decided to approach it from a different perspective, we thought it would be cool to share our skills with the younger ones."
Lucky Dlangalala adds, "we thought that it was better to do something to uplift the kids then see them winding up on the streets; as long as the kids get to skate, everyone is happy." Lucky goes on to let me know that one of the kids they teach, Letlhogonolo Thom (13), has recently won a national skate competition the Kimberly Diamond Cup and that he is one of the first young black skaters to win the competition.
From speaking to a few of the skaters, I derive that most of their parents don't fully support their interest in the sport. Some parents perceive it as a "white sport" and another major criticism is it's expensive, this is because the skaters are prone to injuries and therefore medical bills would need to be factored in.
On the positive side, the skate park has received some support and sponsorship from brands such as Red Bull and Vans.
This seems that it would make it easier for the skaters in that at least some form of recognition and support exists, but there's one probing question in my mind, is it sustainable?
The general consensus from the skaters is a positive one, they feel that it will get better for the kids that they are teaching since the sport is growing and is starting to receive the recognition it deserves locally.
Photography: Hanro Havenga
Writing: Phendu Kuta