Ethiopia Skates

— 3 Jan 2018 by Lauren Furey

Online Croydon Social Panels 18 01 04 Exhibition Skate Ethiopia4

Daniel Reiter is the, Berlin-based, photographer behind this month's incredible exhibition at Boxpark Croydon - Ethiopia Skates. This insightful collection of stunning photographs document the impressive and little known world of the skate culture in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Reiter and, curator, Jacob Roberts-Mensah worked together on the Ethiopia Skate exhibition at the Rich Mix Gallery in conjunction with Livity. Now, you can view it at Boxpark Croydon throughout January. We caught up with Daniel to find out more.

How did you get involved with the Addis Ababa skate community in Ethiopia?

In January 2015, I travelled to Ethiopia to document a friend meeting her mother for the first time in 33 years and to support her emotionally. Ahead of the trip, I was researching for a second story to document and came across their great website and immediately got in contact. After a few emails, I realised that these kids were for real and I wanted to bring them as much skate gear and apparel as possible, so that I could document their world. I ended up going out to photograph them on two different occasions.

Ethiopia probably won't be the first place that springs to mind when people think of the skate culture, how did that come about?

Skateboarding in Ethiopia started almost a decade ago, when there were only a handful of skateboards in the whole country which were left by foreigners who returned to their countries. 

How are young skaters in Ethiopia supported?

There is no real skate-infrastructure. There are no skate shops; you literally can’t buy skate gear in Ethiopia, no local skate magazines and only two skate parks to spark the fire and give all of the interested kids a safe and challenging environment. But thanks to donations of skating gear the communities are growing and the kids are getting better and better every year. 

How do you see the skate culture developing in the years to come?

Many more kids will catch the skating bug and hopefully there will be enough equipment in the country to provide enough skateboards for the rising demand. It is likely that Ethiopia will start to produce their own decks and there is currently skate magazine in development, but it will only be possible with further donations of used skate gear, especially trucks, bearings and hardware.

Do the skaters take part in contests?

The kids haven't left the country to take part in international contests but every time we bring apparel and skate equipment to Ethiopia, we have them all compete in little contests to win the new skate gear, and push them to their limits.

Did the skate kids come across any obstacles?

Some locations of interest, or buildings that would make perfect skate spots, are guarded by the army or police forces who normally chase the skate kids away; lately, a lot of kids are having their skateboards stolen by crooks who then sell a skateboard worth $180 for just 30 bucks or less, in a far away neighbourhood.

What do the locals make of the skaters?

People are always amazed by and interested in that relatively unknown sport. So, every time a bigger street session starts an audience will immediately gather round to watch.

Were their any skaters who were especially fun to photograph?

Henok is the most talented and fearless skater in Ethiopia and he's kind of the hero of my story, but almost all of them are fun in their own way.

Ethiopia Skates is on show at Boxpark Croydon until Wednesday 31 January. You can follow Ethiopia Skates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow Daniel Reiter on Facebook and Instagram.