In 2007, Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan with skateboards in tow. Seeing the curious faces of Afghan kids–many of whom, particularly the girls, were not allowed to ride bicycles–and their excitement to learn how to skate gave Percovich the idea to start Skateistan, an NGO initiative in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa that uses “skateboarding as a tool for empowering youth, to create new opportunities and the potential for change.” Skateistan, which has established itself as Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school, has gained attention over the years, most notably for its ever-growing body of female students.
U.K. photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson visited Skateistan in Kabul in 2012 and took a series of powerful photos of the young women who have found a new kind of freedom through skateboarding. Fulford-Dobson’s photographs are currently on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London, and she had this to say about the exhibition and her experience working with Skateistan:
I met so many impressive women and girls in Afghanistan: a teacher as tough and determined as any man; young Afghans in their early twenties who were volunteering at an orphanage and were passionate about being seen as strong and willing to fight for themselves, rather than as victims of circumstance; and girls who were being educated to be leaders in their communities and who were already thinking carefully about their own and their country’s future. And of course there were the young skate girls, so fun to be around and so totally unspoilt. I feel lucky to have met them. I hope that this collection captures something of their spirit: their joy in life, their individuality and their community.”