Skate Culture Makes Its Way to the Streets of Ethiopia

The last place you’d think to see teenagers practicing their kick flips is in Addis Ababa, the frenetic capital city of Ethiopia, where skaters are lucky to find a paved road free of traffic or new construction.

Despite challenges, the sport is slowly gaining traction there. Local kids improvise with the spaces available, turning empty fountains and deserted monuments into their own personal skateparks.

An abandoned parking lot on Sarbet Circle near the old airport is a popular spot. The community there started with 25 kids and 7 boards and has grown into a grassroots movement called Ethiopia Skate. Founded by Addisu Hailemichael and Abenezer Temesgen, the group has garnered support from skaters around the world and is now more than 150 skaters strong. Together they’re working towards opening the first public skatepark in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopia Skate crew pose with their boards in the Piassa neighborhood of Addis Ababa. From left to right: Barbure, Natty, Eyob, Henok, Ruel, and a local boy.

Daniel Reiter, a Berlin-based photographer, first encountered the organization on a trip to Ethiopia last January and has been documenting Addis Ababa’s budding skateboarding community ever since. His photos, which were recently featured in an exhibition in Germany, convey the grit and ambition of these dedicated young skaters.

“The striking difference between their young age and professional attitude was awe inspiring,” Daniel says. “After school they hit the streets with their skateboards as hard as possible to fulfill their shared dreams of becoming pro skaters. Alongside these dreams lie ambitions to study as engineers, photographers, and, in the case of one boy in particular, to become the owner of a skatepark network across all of Ethiopia.”

Barbure kissing the radio skateboard Daniel Reiter gave him.

Skateboarding first appeared in Ethiopia a decade ago, but the country still lacks the infrastructure to encourage its development. And with no skate shops to speak of, it’s nearly impossible to buy boards and other necessary gear.

On his first trip to Ethiopia, Daniel brought as many skateboards, t-shirts, and hoodies as he could carry and distributed them to the boys. Now, as an official Ethiopia Skate Ambassador, he’s organized a crowdfunding campaign to purchase additional gear and continue chronicling the community’s evolution through pictures.

One thing is certain, skateboarding in Ethiopia is there to stay. “I believe the community is growing,” says co-founder Addisu Hailemichael. “We’re meeting a lot of new people, making friends, having fun. That’s what it’s all about. It’s the closest thing I have to flying.”

Interested in contributing to the cause? Become a backer of Daniel Reiter’s Startnext campaign or get involved at Ethiopia Skate.

Check out the full gallery of photos by Daniel Reiter here. Video courtesy of Ethiopia Skate. This article was originally published at williamandpark.com.