For many youth in the country, there can be a struggle to balance the traditions that are so engrained in the collective culture with their modern, western influences. Among elders, there is a fear that these influences will overshadow or replace the traditions they grew up with. With changing times, however, comes changing ideologies, and for Addisu, skating was a shift towards something bigger — a hope to open the minds of those in the country who may be skeptical of their “rebellious” intentions.
“Skateboarding teaches one to be patient, hard working, creative, determined… So if it helped me the way it did, and if it’s helping the kids the way it is, I say it’s very important for the youth and for the country.”
And they’re not alone. There is a growing movement of similar grassroots collectives that have popped up in recent years, including a dedicated magazine focused on highlighting Africa’s skate scene. These skaters are laying the foundation in their own cities while creating a network that is taking over more and more countries on the continent.
“The local skaters share a dream where, in the future, people around the world should think of skateboarding when thinking of Ethiopia… as opposed to running or coffee,” said Stromsoe, “They’re really going for it. With a few public skate parks, kids would have the opportunity to train, compete with each other and, with time, even compete in nearby African countries with growing skate scenes such as Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.”
Ethiopia Skate completed their first big project last year, building a mini ramp in Addis Ababa, giving the youth a dedicated spot to practice without worrying about being considered nuisances in other public areas.
“Our slogan is ‘we just want to skate’,” adds Hailemichael, “and I want to see [at least] four skate parks [around Ethiopia], more youth join the skate movement, and one day, of course, to compete at an event abroad representing Ethiopia through Ethiopia Skate.”
If their growth in the last year and dedicated following is any indication of their success, there’s a lot on the horizon for the group and skate culture in Africa. While challenges are inevitable for many of the youth in Ethiopia, this collective has planted the seed that there are still options out there that may not go along with the traditional ideals they are used to.
“The kids are so determined and dedicated,” ads Stromsoe. “They’re true pioneers of skating in Ethiopia and I think they know it.”