Skateistan: To Live And Skate Kabul is a film by Orlando Von Einsiedel
During the dead of winter in 2007, 33-year-old skateboarder Oliver Percovich -- an Australian raised in Papau New Guinea by Eastern European parents -- touched down in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan, with three skateboards and what he describes as an "open spirit". His passport bearing stamps from more than 40 countries worldwide, Percovich already knew a few ways to bridge language and cultural gaps between himself and complete strangers. Skateboarding was chief among them. "In Kabul, I wanted to share something, to share my passion," Percovich says in the newly released book, "Skateistan: The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan." So he shared his skateboards.
The story of what happened next is described and illustrated in great detail in the 320-page book. A release party with an artists' reception happened on June 9, in Berlin, Germany.
Percovich's story about making friends through skateboarding is as old as skateboarding itself. But he didn't stop there. By the spring of 2007, the very first seeds of what would become Skateistan had taken root, and today, still in the midst of a country plagued by decades of war, it's a place of common ground, a community center of sorts, an indoor skatepark and schoolhouse, and in its most official sense, Skateitstan is an independent Afghan non-governmental organization that works with youth from a range of ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds to build trust and to provide empowerment through a combination of skateboarding and educational activities. "It all started," Percovich says, "after those loaner boards came back in tatters, with the kids screaming, 'We need more skateboards!'"
Feeding the skate stoke in 2009, Percovich secured a Gamechangers grant from Architecture for Humanity and Nike. The windfall helped build that indoor park and expand the program's outreach. In March of last year, Skateistan Cambodia took to the streets of Phnom Penh with a few ramps and a mobile team of skate instructors. In June, they organized the country's first Go Skateboarding Day event.
The program's focus is to build confidence in the kids and give them a voice, says Sharna Nolan, the program manager in Kabul, stressing that when these children inherit the problems of their county, skateboarding can help show them the new qualities of what it takes to lead.
Skateistan: The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan is available here. All proceeds go toward Skateistan programs.