Skateboarding Against the Norm in Nigeria With Blessing Ewona and Dencity
Nigeria is a largely conservative society that holds little love for skateboarding. However, the skateboarding scene has been steadily growing in recent years and has birthed skate crews like Wafflesncream and Motherlan. In a male-dominated sport, female skateboarder Blessing Ewona founded Dencity, a community that aims to empower and increase the presence of women and marginalized groups in the skateboarding scene.
Ewona was prompted to start Dencity by a post-lockdown need to connect with female skaters in Lagos, as well as messages about how to skate from aspiring female skaters who discovered her skating clips online. At first, the community was just her and a few friends but has now grown into a nationwide group. In the last few months of 2022, they embarked on a skate tour around the country to connect with members outside Lagos. Dencity is becoming a reason for young Nigerian women to believe that skateboarding can be something for them.
Their regular sessions happen at the old National Stadium in Lagos, as there are currently no designated skateparks in Nigeria. The community encourages young women to pursue their passions regardless of societal expectations and demonstrates the transformative power of skateboarding as a means of self-expression. Their efforts are not only inspiring more women to take up skateboarding but also paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable society.
Although Dencity grows, the community still faces challenges like pressures to conform to social norms for women, restricted access to spaces because of their identities, access to skateboarding equipment and so on. But regardless of these issues, they continue to meet to skate at the National Stadium every Saturday, and every other day anyone can show up.
“I’ve had someone stop me on the road to say stuff like ‘Go to school, go and get married, you don’t know what you’re doing with your life' and sh-t like that. It’s not really encouraging to be honest but we just have passion for it, regardless of what people say to us, regardless of the fact that we don’t have access to spaces to skate, we still come out to do it and it’s amazing," Ewona tells us.
We caught up with Dencity on a busy Saturday afternoon at the National Stadium and chatted with Ewona about the realities of skating in Nigeria as a woman, Dencity’s growth and what she likes to wear to skate.
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Tell us a bit about Dencity.
It is a community that is aimed at increasing and empowering the female skateboarding scene in Nigeria and Africa.
What was the motivation for you to start?
I moved to Lagos in 2019 and I remember watching Skate Kitchen and seeing Black girls skating. I was like, "Oh my God, I want to do this." I started looking for communities here in Lagos but I couldn't find one. I think at that time there were two other girls that were skating but because of the pandemic I lost contact with them, and after lockdown, I just started skating again with my friends.
I just started bringing my friends to skate. I started posting my clips and I saw reactions from people, especially girls who would be like, “I’ve always wanted to do this” and I would give them tips and encourage them. I just decided maybe we need a community, 'cause who knows how many girls out there want to skate but they don’t know who to reach out to. So I was like, "yeah let me start this for women and girls that are interested in skating in Nigeria."
How were the first few days in comparison to how it is now?
When Dencity was launched, we just announced the skate sesh the next weekend, and it was just me and my friends that came out to skate. And then a few people started coming, and in some weeks no one would show up at all, but now I don’t even have to come out to skate. There are so many people skating now, and it’s not just in Lagos, but in different parts of Nigeria and it’s very crazy to see.
Why do you skate at the National Stadium?
Because we don’t have a skatepark. There’s no skatepark in Nigeria, that’s crazy.
What are some difficulties you encounter with there being limited designated skating areas?
First of all it’s Nigeria, and skateboarding isn’t really a thing here, it’s just becoming… People are now getting into it. So the reactions from people, even like going out to skate at spots, I’ve had someone stop me on the road to say stuff like "Go to school, go and get married, you don’t know what you’re doing with your life." It’s not really encouraging to be honest but we just have passion for it, regardless of what people say to us, regardless of the fact that we don’t have access to spaces to skate, we still come out to do it and it’s amazing. Hopefully, we'll get a skatepark soon.
How do you feel when you wake up on Saturdays these days?
Before I was like "yes, lemme go skate" but now even when I’m going out to skate, I’m not skating for myself. There are so many people coming out to skate and everyone knows me as a latecomer so when I wake up in the morning I have anxiety 'cause I worry I might be late. I always try to be early though.
What do you think makes people come back?
I think it’s the community. It’s not just like, come out and skate and then everyone goes home, and that’s it. It’s like a family, I’ve made friends through skateboarding, and I’m sure that even all the girls that come out to skate now, it’s just family. Having this mindset and just thinking, "I’m going to see these people when I go skate" or "I’m going to learn a new trick." It’s the drive and the passion for it that keeps people coming out.
How can people support Dencity?
We don’t have access to skateboards because they’re expensive, so donating skateboards, donating to Dencity, and also buying our merch. And we’re looking for sponsors as well.
Why is it particularly difficult for girls to get into skateboarding in Nigeria?
First of all, skateboarding is already seen as a dangerous sport, and people just label skateboarders as rebellious so parents in Nigeria would not want their children to be involved in these kinds of sports. I’ve had people call me to ask me to speak to their parents to let them come skate. They don’t see skateboarding as something that has anything to do with your future. It’s really difficult, it’s deeprooted. Also, the society as well, in Nigeria it’s like you go to school, get married and become a housewife. So it’s very difficult for girls to do these things, that’s why it’s important that we have this community to support each other and stuff like that.
What are your favorite clothes to wear to skate?
When I’m skating I like being comfortable so I just wear really baggy jeans and small tops. It’s always hot so I like tank tops as well.
What’s your favorite trick?
My favorite trick is a tre-flip, but I’m still practicing. Hopefully, I land it soon so I can say it and do it right after.
Nasir Ahmed Achile is a journalist and creative producer currently in Lagos covering culture, music and fashion. His work can be found in VICE, HYPEBEAST, Clash Magazine, Audiomack World, More Branches and so on. Check out his work here or follow him on Instagram.