SkatePal: Palestinian Preconceptions

Words and photography: Alex Adetiba
Super 8 footage: Julian Mährlein

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Negative preconceptions were the main thing that materialised when I first told friends and family that I had decided to volunteer with SkatePal over the summer of 2017. Looking back at it, visions of violence, hostility and isolation are easy to come by when the only time the occupied territories get a mention is because of the ongoing occupation and conflict with Israel. However, moving the focus from such views to the postitives of the real lives of Palestinians is what is so powerful about SkatePal and why it has become such a success.

SkatePal’s momentum has increased massively since I was first exposed to it at a screening of the documentary ‘Epicly Palestine’d’ by the charity’s co-owners Theo Krish and Charlie Davis. As intended, the community that surrounds the skate scene has grown with it. However, I soon came to realise that this has not been limited to Asira Ash-Shamaliya, the town in which the skatepark I volunteered at was built. It isn’t even constrained by the notoriously difficult to cross borders, walls and checkpoints that contain the occupied territories. The community that the charity has created spreads across the world. In just the month I spent there, volunteers from the west cost of the USA, Germany and the Czech Republic had made the pilgrimage to Asira, just outside of the vibrant city of Nablus, to become of the SkatePal Family.

This autumn SkatePal put the finishing touches on their third skatepark. This time in conjunction with SkateQilya, the new park in Jayous is the next step for skateboarding in Palestine. Head over to the website for more info.

The photos and Super 8 videos that follow are a collaboration between myself and photographer Julian Mährlein from our separate trips this year to Asira. We hope that they can break through other preconceptions and help continue the inspiring work by the SkatePal community for children in a situation where opportunities are severely limited.
 

Shot with Pentax MX & Olympus XA3 still cameras on Kodak ColorPlus 200 film
Super 8 captured with Canon 310XL motion camera on Kodak Vision3 500T film stock

 
  Omar Hattab dropping into the '40 Shecks' wall, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   This was the ultimate challenge in the park for all the skaters and this meant me and the other instructors spending countless hours holding their hands, as they stood at the top of the wall doubting what they’d gotten themselves in for.

Omar Hattab dropping into the '40 Shecks' wall, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

This was the ultimate challenge in the park for all the skaters and this meant me and the other instructors spending countless hours holding their hands, as they stood at the top of the wall doubting what they’d gotten themselves in for.

 
  Ali with kids in his dad's car, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   The back of Ali's dad's pickup truck was a regular lift back from the park when we were too tired to make the skate. The kids still somehow had energy to be bouncing of the walls of the car though despite killing it at the park all afternoon.

Ali with kids in his dad's car, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

The back of Ali's dad's pickup truck was a regular lift back from the park when we were too tired to make the skate. The kids still somehow had energy to be bouncing of the walls of the car though despite killing it at the park all afternoon.

 
  Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

 
  Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Everyone wanted to be involved at the skatepark, from the parents who kept rich Turkish coffee flowing from massive flasks to the ice cream man who came on the hottest days with the happy birthday melody blasting from his speakers. This little boy was held back by his parents from skating for being too small, so he went arround offering snacks to keep his exhausted mates going.   

Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Everyone wanted to be involved at the skatepark, from the parents who kept rich Turkish coffee flowing from massive flasks to the ice cream man who came on the hottest days with the happy birthday melody blasting from his speakers. This little boy was held back by his parents from skating for being too small, so he went arround offering snacks to keep his exhausted mates going.   

 
 
  Rock, Paper, Scissors, FUCK YOU, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   This girl demonstrates the Palestinian version of the finger. It didn’t take long for Ro-Sham-Bo to have an extra option added and games of skate to be prolonged because me and the kids were laughing too much.   

Rock, Paper, Scissors, FUCK YOU, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

This girl demonstrates the Palestinian version of the finger. It didn’t take long for Ro-Sham-Bo to have an extra option added and games of skate to be prolonged because me and the kids were laughing too much.   

 
  UniPal kids, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   SkatePal was well known to people all over Palestine and skaters travelled from all over. The kids here came from the UniPal summer camp in Nablus, and had never skated before but after their first lesson were regulars in the skate park.  

UniPal kids, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

SkatePal was well known to people all over Palestine and skaters travelled from all over. The kids here came from the UniPal summer camp in Nablus, and had never skated before but after their first lesson were regulars in the skate park.  

 
  Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

 
  Cidre and her brother dropping in together, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Despite being one of the youngest Cidre is one of the best and knows it. She would come to the park regularly with more confidence than anyone else with her familly egging her on.   

Cidre and her brother dropping in together, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Despite being one of the youngest Cidre is one of the best and knows it. She would come to the park regularly with more confidence than anyone else with her familly egging her on.   

  Local kids, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Out of all the Arabic words I learnt the one that stuck was ‘mish mushkila’ or in English ‘its not a problem’. I heard the phrase out and about constantly tucked within confusing blurs of Arabic. These two modeled that relaxed attitude perfectly when I arrived at the park with my camera.    

Local kids, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Out of all the Arabic words I learnt the one that stuck was ‘mish mushkila’ or in English ‘its not a problem’. I heard the phrase out and about constantly tucked within confusing blurs of Arabic. These two modeled that relaxed attitude perfectly when I arrived at the park with my camera.    

  Abu Ali - 50-50, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   In our spare time when me and the other volunteers were drinking unhealthy amounts of thick Turkish coffee and avoiding the middle eastern mid-summer sun you could find Abu Ali working to renovate the old town. He'd be up in the mountains ready to skate straight after though, having ditched his high vis vest and picked up his board. 

Abu Ali - 50-50, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

In our spare time when me and the other volunteers were drinking unhealthy amounts of thick Turkish coffee and avoiding the middle eastern mid-summer sun you could find Abu Ali working to renovate the old town. He'd be up in the mountains ready to skate straight after though, having ditched his high vis vest and picked up his board. 

 
  Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

 
  Meike & Jack, Nablus, 2017   My friend Jack from back home suprisingly somehow ended up living and learning Arabic with Hani, my and the other volunteers Arabic teacher. Every lesson meant us climbing the steep slopes that led up from the center of Nablus to Hani’s house. Breaks like this on the way were needed to ‘take in the views’.  

Meike & Jack, Nablus, 2017

My friend Jack from back home suprisingly somehow ended up living and learning Arabic with Hani, my and the other volunteers Arabic teacher. Every lesson meant us climbing the steep slopes that led up from the center of Nablus to Hani’s house. Breaks like this on the way were needed to ‘take in the views’.  

  Hakim Daoud in his Ford Cortina,   Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Hakim Daoud’s car became a regular sight outside the skatepark in Asira, it came full to the brim with a group of skaters who had made the journey from Qalqilya on the boarder of Palestine and Israel. We quickly became friends with Hakim and the Qalqilya boys and made multiple trips back from the park bumping Anderson Paak full volume while skitching and hill bombing behind the car. 

Hakim Daoud in his Ford Cortina, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Hakim Daoud’s car became a regular sight outside the skatepark in Asira, it came full to the brim with a group of skaters who had made the journey from Qalqilya on the boarder of Palestine and Israel. We quickly became friends with Hakim and the Qalqilya boys and made multiple trips back from the park bumping Anderson Paak full volume while skitching and hill bombing behind the car. 

  Bethlehem, 2017   Lush wouldn’t have been how I’d have described the Bethlehem of the Bible if I’d taken the time to imagine and it wasn’t the first word I’d think of for the modern city with the wall cutting it off from Israel. Having enough water was a major issue in the west bank with limited water rations filling rooftop tanks everyweek.

Bethlehem, 2017

Lush wouldn’t have been how I’d have described the Bethlehem of the Bible if I’d taken the time to imagine and it wasn’t the first word I’d think of for the modern city with the wall cutting it off from Israel. Having enough water was a major issue in the west bank with limited water rations filling rooftop tanks everyweek.

 
  Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

 
  Nablus, 2017   Getting around Palestine in our free time involved jumping in these shared taxi's called ‘Services’ which would drive you to pretty much any city in Palestine for next to nothing.  

Nablus, 2017

Getting around Palestine in our free time involved jumping in these shared taxi's called ‘Services’ which would drive you to pretty much any city in Palestine for next to nothing.  

 
  Abu Ali - BS 50-50, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Having the park in the mountains led to sessions being ended everyday with amazing sunsets. Abu Ali was determined to get this 50-50 before it dipped below the horizon and left the park in complete darkness.

Abu Ali - BS 50-50, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Having the park in the mountains led to sessions being ended everyday with amazing sunsets. Abu Ali was determined to get this 50-50 before it dipped below the horizon and left the park in complete darkness.

  Abu Ali, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Sneak preview of the Palace sponsored Palestine Olympic skate uniform. 

Abu Ali, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Sneak preview of the Palace sponsored Palestine Olympic skate uniform. 

 
  Amir, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Amir somehow had the ability to bounce off concrete like a ball and seemed completely unphased by slamming. Just happy to be out playing and skating he’d pick up the oversized board and try untill he got the trick, refusing any help. 

Amir, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Amir somehow had the ability to bounce off concrete like a ball and seemed completely unphased by slamming. Just happy to be out playing and skating he’d pick up the oversized board and try untill he got the trick, refusing any help. 

 
  Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

 
  Amir, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017   Amir faces up to the wallride and little ledge. 

Amir, Asira Ash-Shamaliya, 2017

Amir faces up to the wallride and little ledge. 

  Bethlehem, 2017   Street level shot of the view from your luxury room at Banksey’s ‘Walled Off Hotel’ In Bethlehem.

Bethlehem, 2017

Street level shot of the view from your luxury room at Banksey’s ‘Walled Off Hotel’ In Bethlehem.