Building Friendship Through Skating

Updated 7 years ago by Angela Jones, Marshall Artists Series

Skateistan, the inspiring documentary film using skateboarding as a means to improve young lives in Afghanistan is coming to the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center Thursday, October 11 at 7:00 PM. After the film Huntington native and skateboard industry icon, Bryan Ridgway, will speak about the Skateistan project. Also, see one of the rarest collections of skateboards on display in the Keith Albee lobby spanning over six decades.

Armed with little more than a couple of skateboards, Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2007. In a country where children make up more than half the population, Oliver (Ollie) and Sharna soon discovered that their boards drew in local children like an unstoppable magnetic force. These initial sessions, informal at first, eventually led to the foundation of Skateistan, Afghanistan’s first co-educational skateboard school. The mission of the school is to use skateboarding as a tool for empowerment in a place it hasn’t existed before giving young people a voice and giving local people agency to shape projects according to need.

Ollie and Sharna quickly discovered that local custom will only allow girls to skate in public up to the age of 12 – after that there must be no boys or men around. It was then realized the need for a private indoor facility to be able to continue working with the girls. Today the Skateistan school holds an indoor skate park with space to hold all-girl skate classes with experienced female teachers, as well as classrooms and access to multimedia for any boys and girls that are interested – even Kabul’s street kids that have very little hope for their futures.

This astonishing documentary follows Skateistan and its founders and reveals a side of Afghanistan never seen before, as skateboarding transforms the lives of young people in Kabul. When young Australian activists introduce the sport – one of the few that girls are allowed to play – the results are amazing. Rich girls and poor street kids skate side-by-side, as the empty fountain where kids practice, becomes a place where youngsters of all sects, religions and genders come together. But the activists’ efforts to raise money for a skate park encounter resistance from corrupt politicians and skeptical locals, and lurking in the background is the always-present threat of Taliban violence.

Huntington native and skateboarding industry veteran, Bryan Ridgeway, will lead a post film discussion. Bryan serves as Skateistan’s Global Skateboarding Advisor, bringing his vast experience and connections in the world of skateboarding. He helps define the business structure of the organization as well as coordinating marketing opportunities through fundraising efforts.

Hailing from Compton, California by way of Gary, Indiana, Niki Williams pursued her desire to join the Skateistan team on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan. Niki works with the US Skatistan Entity and is on the Board of Directors in an effort to spread the word about the project and work on various fundraising events to help sustain the work that is happening on the ground and now beyond Afghanistan. 

               The one time showing of the documentary film Skateistan is a unique experience pairing the familiar sport of skateboarding with an unfamiliar side of Afghanistan. The film won the prestigious Cinema for Peace award for “Most Valuable Documentary.”

Tickets for SKATEISTAN will be available at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center at 6 PM the day of the show for $10. For addition information or questions please contact the Marshall Artists Series at 304-696-3326.


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