Accra - Ghana has opened its first skate park in the heart of the capital, Accra, in honour of the late US fashion icon Virgil Abloh, who was overseeing the project before he passed away in late November.
Unveiling the park, organisers paid tribute to the American designer of Ghanaian origin with musical performances by local artists and skate sessions by both professionals and amateurs. “Abloh was here,” is conspicuously written on a fence wall at the park, among the list of personalities who contributed to fund the Freedom Skatepark.
Artistic director for Louis Vuitton men’s collections, Abloh, whose family was from Ghana, died last month of cancer aged 41, after becoming the first major black designer recognised in the industry.
Abloh expanded from Chicago’s skate and DJ culture to the heights of the fashion world, first with his own red-hot label Off-White, and then into the luxury industry in Paris. But he never forgot his own Ghanaian roots – earlier this year he used Kente, a traditional fabric worn in Ghana to the catwalks of Vuitton. His Off-White clothes brand is among the sponsors of the new park, which was set up with the help of Surf Ghana, a local collective seeking to empower youth through teaching them extreme sports.
The founder of Surf Ghana, Sandy Alibo, says skating is a lesser-known sport in Ghana. But she believes it will go a long way towards boosting tourism and creating networking opportunities for young Ghanaians.
“We’re not talking only about sports, but we’re talking building self-confidence in the youth, about tourism and developing youth entrepreneurship,” she told AFP. “They connect and share ideas. Skateboarders make the city alive because they entertain people and that is what Ghana needs.”
Alibo said she is looking forward to one day seeing Ghana participate in international skateboarding competitions. “Skateboarding has been accepted at the Olympic Games and that can help develop the sports in Africa.” A skateboarding coach, Joshua Odamtey, says the park will also help children develop their love for the sport.
“We share what we know with the minors because in some years to come we’ll not be here anymore,” he said. “Skateboarding is a way of exercising and also to have fun.”
Abloh was hailed last month by African designers who said he had helped open the door for them and given them a voice in the global fashion industry.