- Text by Alex King
An hours drive north west from the golden beaches of Durban, the land begins to rise into rolling, sun-baked ridges, packed with lush greenery: you know when you’ve arrived at the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Push on further up the gently winding road and you’ll come to Isithumba, a small village where life for young people will never be the same again.
Indigo Skate Camp is helping to shape the village’s very first generation of skaters, who are growing up with a vastly different outlook on life to their elders.
Indigo was built by South African pro skater Dallas Oberholzer. There are other skate-for-development programmes around the country, but none are in such a rural and isolated location as Isithumba, in the Kwazulu-Natal region.
Alongside skateboarding, the programme teaches self-respect, health and safety, art and music; supports the kids’ formal education and aims to tackle the disconnection of the area’s young people from the rest of the country. Now 30-40 young Zulu villagers take part in the programme and their experience of skateboarding has created a more positive mindset and greater sense of togetherness. There’s a stark contrast emerging between the kids who’ve grown up with the park and the generation directly above them, whose isolation and lack of opportunities has left many unemployed and directionless.
In Valley of a Thousand Hills, we see Indigo coaches Mazwi and Charl take the kids – many of whom have never left the area before – to compete at Germiston Snake Run, just outside Johannesburg. In a country where relations between races can be fraught and different communities often lead totally separate lives outside the progressive metropolises, it’s an opportunity for young people from vastly different backgrounds to come together. But are the Indigo crew’s skills, honed in their rural skate paradise, up to taking on the kids from the big city?