All photos courtesy of Gose Gerald @ugandaskateboardcommunity
Interview and text by Jak Hutchcraft (Follow him on Twitter @JAK_TH )
Skateboarding in Uganda is in its infancy. Existing in the country for just over a decade, the scene is growing and evolving by the day with the help of social media, crowd funding and skate-missionaries from the Ugandan Skateboarding Community (USC, sometimes also known as the Uganda Skateboarding Federation).
Through crowd funding, the USC built a DIY skate park in the district of Mukono (clips of which you can see below) and are now trying to do the same in Masaka, a large town that was once devastated by AIDS in the early 90s, creating a lot of orphans, widows and widowers.
Surveys from 2016/2017 show that poverty has risen in the country from 19.7% to 27% living in poverty. That means there are around 10million people in Uganda living below the poverty line.
The USC are supporting the poor and homeless skateboarding communities in Uganda by raising money to build parks, raising awareness and appealing for donations of skateboards and skate gear. Since stumbling across the USC’s Instagram and Facebook pages, I have been captivated by the beautiful photo’s and videos, how young the skaters are and the sheer excitement around the country’s new sport.
Jak spoke with Gose Gerald, a sponsored Ugandan skater and one of the founders of the USC, who is known locally as ‘Uganda’s Skateboarding Ambassador’ to get the full story.
Read on and get inspired. If you want to help the Uganda Skateboarding Community achieve their goals then the best thing you can do is to follow them on Instagram (@ugandaskateboardcommunity) and/or Facebook and get in touch that way.
Wassup Gose! So, how and when did skateboarding land in Uganda?
Gose: The skateboarding scene in Uganda started back in 2005 when a volunteer from Canada called Brian Lye came to here with his skateboard.
He met up with the kids (at the time, I was young too) and taught them how to skate after they got inspired to try by watching him.
He managed to raise money using online crowd funding campaigns and built us our first skate park in the hoods of Kitintale!
Can you tell us how the ‘Ugandan Skateboarding Community’ started?
In 2011, myself and Kizza David realised that we had to widen the skateboarding culture down in Uganda. We knew we had to shift to another city far away from Kampala, so we landed in a town called Mukono. As it was the first time people had ever seen skateboarding in Mukono, a lot of the youth were inspired. They were used to watching such games on TV! So we came up with an idea of making an organisation and we came up with Uganda Skateboard Community. At first, David and I were also young, so the main idea behind it was all about spreading the culture from one town to another. We wanted to share our love of skateboarding with the youth who had love and passion for it too.
How was the building of the first skate park in Mukono?
First of all, we had a challenge whereby we had no international volunteers to advise us, so we had to do everything according to what we thought was right. Secondly, we had a challenge on our social media platforms whereby people were so discouraging with negative comments about what we were doing. Thirdly, the community was so confused because they never knew what we were building!
Wow! That sounds tough. How have the locals taken to it now?
As skateboarding was a new game in Mukono, at first the locals were afraid. They thought that we had just brought a game of breaking bones! The city council tried to stop us until we sent them documents and profiles about the sport. Right now, 45% of Mukono residents are so much interested in the game.
Nice. What about local police and authority?
The police commented saying that constructing a place where skating activities are based is a great milestone because it decreases the number of kids skating on the roads, whom they always knock into. Both police and other authorities enjoy the sport and they are so proud because the Olympics is near and we have been given the chance to represent Uganda!
That is great news! Where do you get the skateboards and gear from?
Skateboarding is kind of not so in demand in Uganda, therefore sports centers don't invest in skateboard stock in their shops. We don't have skate shops here but we feed on donations from our social media friends! Right now we have an online crowd fundraising campaign which is going to help me move to Minneapolis to collect skate funds and meet couple of people who can get onboard. One of the reasons is for me to look forward to how we can come up with manufacturing our own skateboards in Uganda with the available materials.
Is that what you hope for in the future of skate culture in Uganda?
I am 100% sure that skateboarding is going to be the next big thing in Uganda and get a lot of respect from the citizens. At first, people criticized it but when they gave it time and followed it, most of them became interested in it. The inclusion of skateboarding into the Olympics is going to contribute to the growth of the sport, because the Olympics is something big and international and it’s what everyone looks up to. We’ll get attention from the media and the citizens and I think 2020 is gonna be our year to break through!
One last question, what does skateboarding mean to you, and why is it important?
To me, skateboarding is something I grew up doing so it is a lifestyle game and it’s part of me. Skateboarding is a worldwide family that works together, for example, we are running a fundraising campaign and fellow skaters are the ones contributing towards it!