The skateboarding crew inspiring
the country’s youth to conquer
Addis Ababa’s streets
Ethiopia is much touted as a development darling for its current double-digit growth per annum and expanding industrial sectors. But less reported is its burgeoning creative scene including a newfound urban skateboarding culture. Ethiopia Skate is one of the key organisations responsible for bolstering this fresh scene taking hold of the country’s youth. Although primarily based in Addis Ababa, on an open pocket of concrete originally intended as parking for taxicabs in the Old Airport Sar Bet area, the group also activates skate spots around Ethiopia. Since its inception in 2013, Ethiopia Skate has worked to provide access to skateboarding equipment and spaces where members from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds can “just skate”. Like Nike’s iconic motto, this minimalist ethos fuels their urban conquests. With each new push, kickflip and ollie, co-founders Sean Stromsoe and Abenezer Temesgen and fellow skateboarding enthusiast Addisu Hailemichael, hope to build not only confidence and creativity within their followers, but also a deep sense of community.
As they kinetically demonstrate their mission at their concrete headquarters, juxtaposed against the backdrop of the famed African Union and UN International conference buildings, they’ve become the embodiment of Ethiopia’s new era. No matter the ages or backgrounds of its members, these skaters come together and channel their frustrations and successes into their boards; their only obstacles being their own limitations and whether they choose to accept them. With every trick landed safely, a light grows in their eyes, and you begin to wonder, if Ethiopia will cruise into its future as effortlessly as these young people conquer its streets? Time will tell on both fronts.
Words by Metasebia Yoseph, founder/director of Design Week Addis Ababa and author of A Culture of Coffee a book on the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and its global legacy. She is also the creative director for Gallery 26, a creative agency and design showroom based in Addis Ababa.