The ‘Skate Girls of Kabul’ exhibition could leave behind a legacy by inspiring the local society to possibly create its own version such as ‘Skate Girls of Doha’, renowned British photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson has said.
“That is a great thing and I feel there could be a legacy like ‘Skate Girls of Qatar or Skate Girls of Doha; it becomes a force of its own,” the artist noted.
A major show by Qatar Museums (QM), ‘Skate Girls of Kabul’ marked its first appearance in the Middle East last week and runs until October 21. It is presented under the leadership of QM chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
The show features 40 images of Afghani girls between the ages of five and 25 who use skateboards as a means of transportation to attend school.
Lauding the efforts of QM, Fulford-Dobson said Qatar is taking her exhibition “to a great and even bigger level” after her solo exhibition in April 2015 at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
She noted that such a show, described as ‘art with impact’ by a London magazine, brings people of different cultures and backgrounds together.
“We have shown that the story cuts across all boundaries of cultural divide because we can all speak to it, it reminds us of what we have in common wherever you are from, and that is uniting in a world that might be trying to put us apart,”
Fulford-Dobson pointed out.
“It was wonderful to come here (Doha) again and be reminded of what we all have in common, and this brings us all together,” she told reporters at the QM Gallery in Katara recently where the show is taking place.
She thanked QM and HE Sheikha Al Mayassa for hosting the show for three months, allowing more people from all backgrounds to visit and see her works of art.
Out of more than 4,000 submissions, Fulford-Dobson’s work won second prize at the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Award (where it was exhibited for the first time) in November 2014.
The photographer also cited the efforts of QM in involving the community in such an artistic endeavour, which she believes will have an impact other than “just looking at a nice picture
and then walking away”.
“We are all skate girls in different ways... in every country, there is room for this kind of an exhibition,” she added.
According to Fulford-Dobson, ‘Skate Girls of Kabul’ greatly impacted her as an artist, stressing that these girls helped her
produce her best work.
“Hopefully, girls can come here (to the exhibition) and if they are not necessarily trying sport, they can have a go and get hooked. I am sure there will be more skate parks around Doha,” she said.
Alongside the exhibition, QM built a skating ramp inside the gallery space. Visitors can try their hand at skateboarding by using skateboards and helmets.
Skateistan expands beyond borders
The charity effort of Skateistan has expanded beyond the borders of Afghanistan, according to Fulford-Dobson.
Skateistan, an award-winning international nonprofit organisation empowering youth and children through skateboarding and education, is supporting the ‘Skate Girls of Kabul’ programme.
“Now they have the biggest school in north Afghanistan. The charity is reaching beyond its borders and it is now going to Cambodia where they have two projects, and they just opened another school in Johannesburg,” she said.
The artist saw what she described as “a great story about girls” in a conservative society who can skate and enjoy some freedom and a chance to have a childhood with the help of a charity organisation.
“I captured their laughter, it was so sweet, and you hear them laughing and falling down (from their skateboards),” she recounted.
Despite tragedies (suicide attacks) in 2012 that killed a couple of its students, to Fulford-Dobson stressed Skateistan still continued their charity work.
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