RIDE FAST... RIDE FREE
Abdullah, 18 years old, was born in Qalqilya on the first of february 2000 ... In the middle of the second intifadah.
Abduallah is Palestinian ...
Abdullah is a skateboarder, one of the most talented skateboarder in Palestine.
Qalqilya is a small city of the West Bank. Located one hour north west of Ramallah, right on the Israel / Palestine border, surrounded by the apartheid wall on one side and illegal settlements on the other. Israeli military occupation there is heavy. Added to this Qalqilya is a relatively conservative muslim town.
We met each other there in 2015 while I was taking part as a volunteer in a project called " skatepal", which aims to introduce skateboarding to the children of the West Bank, by building skateparks, offering skateboards and teaching skateboarding.
Abdullah started skateboarding at the age of 13. He found a really basic used skateboard in a fleamarket and tried it. With some friends he started a crowdfunding in order to built a miniramp in Qalqilya. In the same time Charlie Davis, founder of skatepal, was on the way to build the first skatepark in Palestine.
One of the main thing about skateboarding is that it brings people together, and that's what happend with Abdullah, Charlie and all the people that came to volunteer for skatepal.
He realised then that he wasn't alone and was actually now part of a the big skateboard's family and started skateboarding with them around the West Bank (Asira ash Shamilya and Jayyous where the last two skateparks have been built by skatepal but also Ramallah, Beit Lehem and Nablus to skate streets).
« Here we have no freedom of movement ... no opportunity to play, study, or work ...
skateboard help me clear my mind, and it's pretty much all we can do »
The occupation forces opperate all over the West Bank and Palestinians confront it in their every day life, there are physical violent confrontations but there is also a strong psycholigical aspect from being occupied.
In a place like Qalqilya, surrounded by the wall, this psychological aspect of colonisation plays a strong role, it is a everyday face to face to the apartheid politic of Israel, bringing very complex issues as well as some easier to understand like not seeing the horizon, having soldiers watching over you 24/7 or even not having air because the wall blocks all the wind coming from the see located only 30 min drive away.
In this situation skateboard for Abdullah has become a tool for self developement, self confidence, perseverance, giving him the chance to reappropriate himself his own urban space, looking at his surrounding with a new perspective, turning it into a playground.
Skateboarding helped Abdullah to make the best of a situation where he felt locked up and oppressed. But being now part of the skateboard community brought a new issue, he was now a marginal from the conservative muslim community of Qalqilya, facing critics and questions as : why do you spend time playing with this ?, why don't you just work and marry ? Etc ...
So at the age of 16 he then went to ramallah, which is less conservative, in order to run away from this face to face with the Israeli occupation, and this conservative society where it's hard to break rules and be who he want to be.
« skateboarding here is a message to say that no matter what they do,
no matter what walls they put, we are gonna keep having fun, we are gonna keep skating,
we are gonna ... we are gonna ... we are gonna Live. »
Skateboarding is a lifestyle made of sharing, travelling, discovering, having fun with your friends without barriers of class, "race", age and gender.There are job opportunities in the West Bank of course but they are rare and not well paid, cultural, educational and sporting opportunities such as skatepal offer a chance for young people to be involved productively in their community.
Facing financial issues Abdullah decided to try his chance having a better paid job in Israel. After few applications he got a one day visa to cross the border, and stayed illegally for 8 month in Haïfa. Still hoping to save enough money and get a visa to Europe or the U.S ... Denied one more time he moved back to Ramallah.
With the money he made in Haïfa, he bought himself a guitar to focus on something positive and creative. He still hope to one day travel safely outside Palestine, maybe go to Europe to study ... He is working hard on it.
« When I moved to Haïfa I knew no one, and nothing, not even the language,
and I didn't have permit already on the second day.
Just because I am skateboarder I met those people, Israeli people,
they used to go to army and shit you know !
And just because skateboard brings people together they hosted me
and helped me without even knowing me at first ! »
« It's somehow nice there for me, but without visa ...
it's too dangerous, imagine if the police catch me,or even if I go to hospital »
In all that skateboard has become an important part of him ... He would like to turn this passion as his main activity, in order to give this chance he had to discover skateboarding to other kids in Palestine. He would like to create a sustainable skateboard scene in his country, helped by the whole skatepal crew that aim to reach the same goal, by having a skateshop, creating a skateboard brand and press their own boards, and building new skateparks.
By the way, Abdullah is really talented and becoming a really good skateboarder !
Abdullah enjoying the morning sun on his balcony. Ramallah, 2018
View of Nablus, the biggest city near Qalqilya where Abdullah bought his first skateboard equipments and started to look for street skate spots. Nablus, 2016
Abdullah sitting at the bottom of the apartheid wall surrounding his hometown. Qalqilya, 2015
Olive trees are a symbol of palestinian identity. Ramallah, 2018
Abdullah yelling at me (as a joke) to express his hanger about the place he is living in. Qalqilya, 2016
Abdullah hitting the streets, powerslide. Ramallah, 2018
Abu Ali, Omar and Abdullah skateboarding together at the Asira Ash Shamaliya skatepark. The park was built by skatepal in 2015. Omar bluntslide. Asira Ash Shamaliya, 2018
Abdullah and his very good friend Omar having a cigarette and chilling after a skate session. Qalqilya, 2016
Jayyous skatepark, the last skatepark built by skatepal in 2017. It‘s located in Jayyous, a village 5 min drive from Qallqilya. In the background we can see the Israeli border, here the wall hasn‘t been built yet, patrol road and barbwire „only“. On the far left is Tel Aviv (30 min drive), on the far right Netanya. Some days kids can see the sea from the skatepark. Jayyous, 2018
Abdullah playing guitar in La Grotta, a bar in Ramallah. Ramallah, 2018
Yasser arafat‘s portrait in a house in qalqilya. We went to this place, together with James (another skatepal volunteer) and a bottle of vodka bought in a christian village near Qalqilya, to meet Abdullah and his friend Eihab. Eihab played techno, we drunk that bottle, since they were not used to drink they went drunk pretty fast and we had a crazy night. Qalqilya being relatively conservative we had to close every window to not be visible from the outside. Qalqilya, 2015
Abdullah‘s home. Qalqilya, 2016
Abdullah. Qalqilya, 2016
Abdullah (left) with Charlie and Theo (right), founder of skate pal, talking about the project and the role skate- boarding can play on palestinian youth. Ramallah, 2018
Abdullah skating the streets at night. Ramallah, 2018
Ride Fast, graf ti in the skatepark. Asira Ash Shamilya, 2018
Ride Free, graf ti in the skatepark. Asira Ash Shamilya, 2018