In a backyard somewhere in Addis Ababa, I find a place full of more inspiration then I’ve seen in a long time. There are a bunch of kids, boys, and girls, at a not so new ramp skating their asses off. They are dropping, falling, flying, overall having a blast. Thier limbs are soaring through the air and a psychedelic collage of raw energy, crocs sandals, sun dresses, and suede leather jackets go make my eyeballs feel lit. Ladies and Gentleman meet The Megabi Skate team.
The Megabi Skate team is part of Love in Action – Ethioskate. Founder Israel Dejene became hooked on the sport after visiting Sweden to perform music. He picked up a skateboard, and never looked back. He decided to bring boards back to his hometown with dreams to build Addis Ababa’s only skate ramp, what transpired surpassed all expectations, a full-blown organization providing local youth productive ways to engage in their communities through skateboarding and public service.
When I talk to Herit, a 9 year old girl that has been skating for 3 years, she tells me she likes to skate because it feels like flying and it also makes her feel strong.
The meaning of Megabi is derived from the Amharic word that means “someone that gives life to others.” A biblical reference goes that, Israel’s father gave him the nickname Megabi at a very young age when Israel would wake up at first dawn and walk to buy bread. These were during some very hard times in Ethiopia when food was scarce. The same way that bread was a life-giver to his family is the same way he hopes skateboarding gives life to these kids.
From the beginning both girls and boy skate, but it was hard for girls to come out because they have to do house chores and are expected to be home. Playing sports in Ethiopia is not something that is common for girls, but Israel and his little sister Muluken have pushed over and over again to have the girls get permission to come and learn skateboarding. They’ve even had people go and do the chores for the girls so that they can come and skate. And a couple of years after Megabi skate team was founded, Megabi Skate Girls, Africas first girl skate team was established.
Megabi Skate provides training and equipment, meets five times a week and teaches the children how to skateboard, while also focusing on teamwork and leadership skills. When I live the group I get a strong feeling that this is only the beginning of a life full or epic soars for Megabi Skate and thier crew!
story + photos / Clara Nordlander Wiberg