Our homie Martin Louzecky, originally Czech gone CPH local, has made it his mission to grow the skateboarding scene in the capital of Mozambique through the foundation Skate World Better (SWB) and gathered a strong team of Danes, internationals and local Mozambicans to make an epic build this November. Our photojournalist Simon Skipper, also heading down for the project, had a talk with Martin about SWB and the vision behind the project, just after the plane with Martin touched the runway concrete in Mozambique.
S: Yo my man! Can you tell our readers what exactly SWB is all about?
M: Skate World Better is a non-profit organization based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Our goal is to build two public skateparks in Maputo, Mozambique in the Fall of 2019 in order to support Maputo’s skateboarding community. It was created by me and two of my friends Tomas Erskog (SE) and Brendan Greene (US), we’re studying African studies at the University of Copenhagen. This project is part of a research project that aims to enrich our general knowledge in the West about the social situation in Southern Africa, while we want to leave as big a positive mark as possible behind at the same time.
S: That’s epic brother, I agree with you that skateboarding can be such a powerful tool in creating social change. Especially because we put up a framework for anyone to come explore in their own way, not like if we were basketball teachers teaching the ONE right way to shoot hoops. Now why did you exactly choose Mozambique among all those developing countries?
M: Exactly, skateboarding is such a strong tool for growth and self expression! Good question. We chose Mozambique for multiple reasons. Both for our personal interest, our academic interest in the country and a bit of coincidence as well. Mozambique is a country in southeast Africa experiencing a ‘youth bulge’ in its population at the moment. That means that more than 45 % of the local population is 15 years of age or younger. And the thing is, ⅛ of the population is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. This situation has encouraged us to go for finding an alternative positive outlet for young people growing up in Maputo, among all the hardship happening down there.
I truly believe skateboarding can be used as a tool to keep kids away from the dangers of drug use and crime, both of which are unfortunately prevalent in Mozambique’s capital city at the moment. This project will ultimately provide the city with a much needed space for a growing community of skaters. This space will act as a place for recreation and gatherings where educational seminars can be held through the playful form of learning, skateboarding offers. We have teamed up with local associations of skaters who share our goals and values. They have also been able to provide us with two secure properties and volunteers for the build.
Moreover, our co-founder Tomas spent his youth in Mozambique and therefore he has great connections to its locals, which is vital in the organising of this project. Brendan is an academic by heart with his primary focus on the region of South Africa and I, Martin, am a long time skateboarder and student of the Lusophone world (Lusophone = former Portuguese), so yeah, that is why we chose Mozambique.
S: That makes sense bro, I’m stoked to come along and come document the process and get to know those little local rippers! Also from my project ‘Nairobi On Wheels‘ in Kenya from 2017 I saw how the kids who cared the most about skating stayed clean. Now can you tell me, what activities and values do you want to bring through SWB?
M: Yup. Once our first skatepark is built, we want to hold educational seminars, workshops, concerts and exhibitions as well in the skatepark in order to enhance the existing skating culture there. We will take part in the initial organizing of these events before we leave for home before Christmas. The walls surrounding the property where we’ll build will also serve as an open canvas for local artists and art enthusiasts to share their creativity through painting. People from all over Maputo will have a chance to come and share their painting skills amongst other crafts. Through this, we aim to create local partnerships which will inspire others to use the SWB space to organize events in the long term.
After the opening ceremonies of both parks, ASM (Associação do Skate de Moçambique) and Maputo-Skate, the two organizations we want to support, will both facilitate regular skateboarding lessons and hopefully we’ll also organize events together with them. To bolster local skate culture we are also bringing skateboards and other gear with us to give away to the local kids as well as sharing our knowledge on social projects and on building.
S: I like the sound of that, it’s not just about us going down to make a one-off event, it’s about making things sustainable long term. So where do we stand now?
M: Exactly! We have worked on this project alongside both going to university and tending to our regular work for nearly a year now. We have gathered a solid crew of people who directly help or support our idea. This is, in my eyes, the most important component to succeed with a project of this size. We have worked out a scheme and the logistics, and we have also gathered a solid crew of reporters, enthusiasts, professional builders, skaters and artists who are already preparing for their visit and have tickets to come here.
Also, we have gathered some goods for the young skaters in Maputo (Thank you Jazz skate co., Hitit skateboarding, Messyweekend co, and everyone who’ve donated!) also, we have created our own boards with one of our sponsors, the Ambassadors skate company. Some boards have been sold to people around the world for funding, the rest will be brought to Maputo for the local skaters to shred.
As mentioned, we partner with the local organizations ASM and Maputo-skate. They have shown immense interest in doing this project together with us and they have secured us the spaces for the build, so essential! Our first location is in a very central poorer districts called Maxaquene, our second is on the edge of the city in a very densely populated suburb called Kongolate. Both areas are swarming with kids, so we believe the impact of our builds will be pretty good.
S: Crossing all my fingers! Can you share a bit more on the effort and footwork it’s taken you to get this far that you now know the project will be realized?
M: As most projects hit complications one way or another, we came across a major one which brought us massive sorrow. Our dear friend, one of the main partners, the president of ASM suddenly passed away earlier this summer. We were in complete shock at first, without a clue whether to continue with the project or give it all up, as we felt that we should give some space for the organization and the family to regroup, as well as the fact it was now a total mess to figure out our paperwork and planning with their president gone. Eventually we decided to continue for the sake of his spirit and those he cared about the most – the kids of Maputo. With great help from his friends, family and colleagues as well as enthusiastic support from all of you believing in this project, we continued.
Currently we are still in the process of fundraising, finding the last sponsor gifts and securing all the resources we will need for the build. I’m writing this from our home in Maputo as we continue to organize the last official paperwork and logistics needed for all the volunteers. In just a couple of week, our talented guys from Wonders around the world will arrive to start the build! We are keeping track of our progress in these short videos that will update anyone interested on how we’re doing, so don’t forget to check them out! [S: 4 episodes are out as I’m publishing this!]
S: Yeah I remember when you told me the news and I had to use all my faith in supporting you as well as keeping up my own hope that our efforts wouldn’t be in vain – so happy you came through like a boss and we’re strong in the game with an even more important role and story now! So, I have to ask you – hopefully many of our readers will be curious and motivated to make a difference in Mozambique and support the work of Skate World Better. So how can people help out?
M: Indeed, I love you for the support bro, and now our work really IS more important than ever! So for all you open for supporting SWB – now that we have arrived, we are realizing that we are a little short on money. We unfortunately lost major funding as the entire build seemed very unclear until the last moment, due to all those complications. We have our own crowdfunding page where every penny and every share counts, so let me humbly ask for your support there, you who’s reading these words! Even 5 DKK makes a difference (especially in Africa)!
Also, we came up with these fresh shirt and deck designs as you can see in the photos on this page, so are you interested in either, don’t hesitate to write to us or to Jazz skate co., they help to distribute our stuff. Part of our team is still in Europe for some weeks, so shipping a shirt or a board to you is never an issue. Just DM us on Instagram to make it happen!
Furthermore, by sharing our content, telling your friends about us and by following our channels we will certainly move forward faster, so stay tuned!! We might call again for your help along the way! Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions and comment on our project with honest feedback or constructive criticism, your input might give us perspective and save us trouble later!
PLEASE SUPPORT US HERE: https://www.gofundme.com/f/skatepark-in-maputo-mozambique