"My name is Tobias Schult and I‘m a photographer from Berlin/Germany. Besides my commercial work, I try to work on personal projects on a regular basis. This year in January I spent 2 weeks in Kampala, originally working with Viva con Agua. My contact there was Papa, a great guy who did an awesome job in introducing me to a lot of people. This is how I got to know Jack, the pioneer of skateboarding in East Africa, a father, a highly respected community member and simply a great and humble guy. He‘s the president of the Uganda Skateboard Union, the skate-aid representative for East Africa and especially responsible for this beautiful skate park in the Kitintale ghetto.
When I arrived there for the first time, I instantly felt in love with the place. Jack took me on a little tour through “his ghetto“and showed me where he grew up. We spoke about the struggle and issues of the people and especially of the kids growing up there. You don‘t have to be an expert to understand how important skateboarding is for these kids and how much it gives them a perspective, that they might not have without it.
It‘s fantastic to see how little kids and guys in their twenties all together use the park totally respecting each other. Nobody told the older kids to help the younger skaters. It’s all natural for them and they really want to support them. So instead of just making a quick stop at the skate park, I stayed there for as long as I could and took photos until the sun went down and the kids stopped skating.
I knew I had to come back though, everything was just so photogenic and the people were warm and friendly. And so I did. I couldn’t resist the view you have, when you are standing on the top of the ramp looking at the roofs of the ghetto. I already made some friends there too. Besides Jack, there was also Faruk. There were a lot of positives vibes between us and we talked for hours. He really liked the photos I took on that first day. So when I came back, Faruk came up to me and said that Jack wouldn’t be there yet but they would like to ask me something. They showed me a collection of clothes that they up-cycled with African fabric and basically did their own designs to sell it later and make some extra money. So they asked me if I could help them and photograph the stuff, so they could present it online. Of course I agreed and we instantly started a spontaneous shoot with the local skate kids and their self-made clothes walking through the ghetto and looking for good spots. After doing this for like an hour we finished up with a big group shot of everybody standing on the big ramp, wearing their own clothes…basically a big family photo.
For the rest of the day I kept documenting the life at the skate park again until the sun went down…actually I enjoyed the photos during the “blue hour” the most. What a calm vibe everything had. Talking to Faruk that day I mentioned the idea that I would love to see how the kids here actually live. Faruk instantly agreed to show me around in their house and introduce me to his family. We made a date for the following day.
That happened to be one of the last days before I had to leave. When I arrived at the park to meet Faruk, the place was totally crowded. I asked Faruk what’s going on and he told me that there was a big dance contest. It was a blast and again people were enjoying the skate park even though nobody was skating today, but it was still the center of attraction. We left the crowd and strolled through the ghetto to get to Faruks house. Except his dad, everybody was home. They were not really expecting him to bring a Muzungu (that’s what they call white people) home, but still they were the friendliest family! I took their family photo in their tiny backyard and got a tour through every room of the house. They also have one of these little groceries stores behind a gate attached to the house. Faruk is sharing his room with two of his younger siblings and we talked a lot about his future ideas and about what kind of job he wants to get.
Things are really difficult there, so skateboarding gives them a little perspective and an option to do something after school.
I‘m super thankful for the opportunity to meet guys like Jack, Faruk, Texas and so many great kids, who interacted with me for the photos and a quick chat. I hope you guys like the photos I took at the Kitintale skate park, the ghetto and Faruks home."
Text & Pics by Tobias Schult