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skier en l’an 2011


02 P O C M A G


IT’S EXPLOSIVE RED AND SKY-HIGH BLUE, PAINFUL PURPLE AND COMPLICATED GREY. LIFE IS A KALEIDOSCOPE OF RAINBOW-TINTED TWISTS AND TURNS – MAGENTA HIGHS AND DARK SLATE LOWS – BUT AT NO POINT ON THIS LOOP-DE-LOOP DOES IT EVER PLAY OUT IN MONOCHROME. AND THANK THE SILVER-STUDDED HEAVENS FOR THAT! BECAUSE WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT COLOUR IN OUR WORLD? THERE WOULD BE NO BREATHTAKING SUNSETS, NO VIVID DREAMS, NO MEMORIES CAPTURED IN SEPIA HUES. YOU SEE, LIFE IS BETTER IN TECHNICOLOUR TONES. FOOD TASTES FINER. DAYS LOOK BRIGHTER. AND BEES AND TREES AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS CAN RESCUE US FROM DOOM AND GLOOM, LIKE A HOMEMADE REMEDY FROM MOTHER EARTH. COLOUR CAN BE THE SEEDLING OF CHANGE. IT CAN MOVE A MAN TO CREATE GREAT ART. IT CAN REMIND A COMMUNITY THAT STRENGTH COMES FROM WITHIN. IT CAN INSPIRE A KID TO CHOOSE HIS OWN PATH. IT CAN UNITE A NATION DIVIDED BY CLASS. BUT WHEN MANKIND REFUSES TO SEE BEYOND SKIN, COLOUR BECOMES A DIVISIVE FORCE. PERHAPS COLOUR IS A LOT LIKE LIFE – IT MEANS WHATEVER YOU WANT IT TO MEAN. WELCOME TO THE COLOUR ISSUE. WE HOPE YOU ENJOY ITS EVERY SHADE.

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B R YA N D E R B A L L A

THE COLOUR ISSUE

Bunker Spreckels 34

Anthony Napolitan 08

TJ SCHILLER 38

Janelle Monáe 10

Team Sweden 44

Pantone Wordplay 12

scraper bikes 46

Julia Mancuso 14

Surf Antiquarian 54

Alpine Initiatives 16

Holi Festival 56

ikiz 18

Chemmy Alcott 62

Claes Hultling 20

Wolfgang Bloch 64

blake nyman 22

Jean-Michel Basquiat 70

favela painting 24

Martin Söderström 74

what is colour? 28

Shades of Prejudice 76

CONTENTS

B r e a k i n g bo u n d a r i es i n B M X . the future of pop is here. A pa l ette o f f u n a ssoc i at i ons , j u st bec a u se . T w o O ly m p i c me d a l s a i n ’ t b a d . A lt r u i st i c en d e a v o u r s w i t h JP A u c l a i r . M ULT I C ULT URAL M A S T E R O F JA Z Z . Ins p i r i n g sto r y, i ns p i r at i on a l m a n . A l l - mo u nt a i n r i p p e r . B r i g h ten i n g - u p B r a z i l’ s h u mb l e a bo d es . T h e sc i ence be h i n d o u r v i b r a nt w o r l d .

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S u r f i n g ’ s p r i nce o f d ec a d ence . K i c k i n g b a c k w i t h C a n a d a’ s f r ees k i p i onee r . C a m a r a d e r i e i s k e y f o r t h ese O ly m p i c s k i e r s . Ro l l i n g h o p e d o w n O a k l a n d ’ s st r eets . S u r f bo a r d s f r om a tec h n i co l o u r t i me . S p r i n g t i me i n In d i a i s a s i g h t to be h o l d C om p et i t i on i s i n h e r b l oo d . S URF AR T G E T S S O PHI S T I C AT E D . R a d i a nt c h i l d o f o u ts i d e r a r t. f r ee r i d e mo u nt a i n b i k i n g G O E S GL O B AL . T a nz a n i a’ s a l b i nos r e f u se to l i v e i n f e a r .


blackcrows-skis.com

skier en l’an 2011


haas & hah n

Editor Andrea Kurland Associate Editors Ed Andrews & Shelley Jones CREATIVE DIRECTOR Rob L ongworth WITH THANKS To Mickey G Editorial Enquiries editorial@thechurchoflondon.com Advertising Enquiries ads@thechurchoflondon.com 06

Words Philip Ball, Tim Burrows, Dan Crockett, Jackie Dewe Mathews, Michael Fordham, K r i s t o f f e r Fre n ke l , M o n i s h a R a j e s h , C h l o e R o t h , S t e v e Ya t e s Images A l p i n e I n i t i a t i v e s , Wo l f g a n g B l o c h , A r t B r e w e r, S a m C h r i s t m a s , A d a m C l a r k , Bryan Derballa, Jackie Dewe Mathews, Douglas Engle/australfoto.com, Mickey G, Andy Gilmore, Haas & Hahn, Lee Jaffe, Adrian Johnson, Justin Kosman, Anders LindĂŠn, Clint Martin, Jennifer Osborne, M a t t h e w R e a m e r, R e d B u l l p h o t o f i l e s , L auren Ross, Nisse Schmidt, Jitendra Singh, Aaron Smith

P O C M AG i s p u b l i s h e d b y P O C , i n collaboration with The Church of L ondon, m a k e r s o f HU C K m a g a z i n e . The Church of L ondon To p F l o o r 8-9 Rivington Place London EC2A 3BA +44 (0) 207-729-3675 w w w. t h e c h u r c h o f l o n d o n . c o m The articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinions of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team. Made with paper from sustainable sources.


PHOTO: CHRIS HOLTER LOCATION: NARVIK, MØRKHÅLA, NORWAY

Welcome to nature

Read more about this picture and other stories in the Norrøna Magazine, at norrona.com or facebook.com/norrona

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There’s no such thing as impossible when you’re BMX rider Anthony Napolitan. words shelley jones P H O T O G R A P H Y j u s t i n k o s man / r e d b u l l p h o t o f i l e s

“BMX riders are just crazier than normal people,” laughs the nicest guy in dirt, Anthony Napolitan, unfazed by the fact he’s recovering from a freshly separated shoulder. “I think it’s just because of what we do… You can’t treat action sports athletes the same as normal people. A normal person goes to hospital, BMXers don’t really go to hospital.” In fact, they don’t really do anything they’re ‘supposed to’ at all. Because breaking boundaries is just the BMX way and Napolitan is one high-flying roller who knows that all too well. Last year at the 2009 X Games 15, Napolitan casually dropped down an eighty-foot-high perch for his run and, to everyone’s surprise, busted the first ever double front flip in BMX history. The crowd went wild and there was a standing ovation. Then the Ohio-born rider courteously waved, waited for his next go, and did it again. You see, for someone who spends so much time in the air, Napolitan is remarkably grounded. “People seem to like my tricks but I don’t wake up every morning trying to be different… I’m not like that,” says the chilled twenty-four-year-old. “Usually when I learn something new, I’m just out rolling and it pops into my head. It’s kind of weird… [tricks] just kind of sneak up on me.” Napolitan is a total trailblazer in dirt BMX and seems comfortable with the mantle placed upon his shoulders. Despite all the “crazy, hungry kids out there that steal all your tricks,” he distinguishes himself from the rabble with new combos and a smooth style that is all about the flow. “I don’t think there’s anyone out there that rides like I do. I don’t think anyone can copy my style,” he says with confidence. “I think I’m original in that way.” As an energetic teen, Napolitan was into team sports but after his father died he fully embraced the freedom of skate park culture. He explains: “Coaches yelling at you and all that crap is kind of

stupid. I was pretty much over it so when I found BMX I was like, ‘Ah man, this is awesome.’ It was just fun and it had nothing to do with how the sport was put together or anything.” With no structure to stifle creativity, Napolitan was able to develop in his own way and eventually nurtured his skills to world standards when he moved to world-class training academy Camp Woodward, Pennsylvania, in 2005. He explains: “I met [BMX veteran] Kevin Robinson when he came to ride my local skate park, Section 8, with a bunch of dudes from Woodward… For some reason he really took a liking to me. He gave me his phone number and said, ‘Call me anytime you want to come to Woodward.’” After a few visits Napolitan eventually moved to Woodward full-time and won the 2006 Dew Tour as a result. And yet, even when he’s pioneering new tricks or taking first place, the modest rider, now based near Woodward in State College, refuses to let his competitive spirit get in the way of good old fashioned respect. In fact, newbies could learn a lot from his chivalrous park etiquette. “I’m not the kind of dude who’ll look at [Australian BMX rider] Ryan Guettler and then drop in and do a 720 in his face,” he says respectfully. “That’s how the kids are today and it’s like, ‘Really dude? Are you going to harsh the mellow like that?’ I like to go to contests and have fun and not be super competitive.” Riding, it seems, makes Anthony Napolitan the happiest guy in the world and it’s that spirit, above titles and trophies, which he is eager to protect. “I would recommend any young kid to try BMX,” he says enthusiastically. “You have to be fearless and openminded enough to make the impossible seem possible. There are kids out there that have restrictions on their minds and beliefs and that’s sad because I remember when I was a little kid, if you told me to pick a car up, I would tell you that I could.”

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Music is her weapon and the world is her stage. Behold the futuristic vision of Janelle Monáe. w o r d s s t e v e y at e s P H O T O G R A P H Y aa r o n s m i t h “Are you ready for an interactive e-motion picture?” asks the man in the top hat and cane to a rammed Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen in Shoreditch, London. People are more than ready. Ever since Janelle Monáe’s beyond-stunning appearance on David Letterman – in which she channelled the ghosts of James Brown, Michael Jackson and a thousand Broadway stars into a performance of her song ‘Tightrope’ that left Madonna looking lethargic and Lady Gaga uninspired – the buzz around her has grown closer to a nuclear hum. Sat in a Mayfair hotel the day before the show, Janelle Monáe exudes quiet confidence. “I’ve been performing for over half my life, the stage is my home,” she says in her soft, smoky voice. “I wrote plays and musicals growing up and that kept me alive, kept me out of trouble. I could’ve been doing some other creatively mischievous things.” Born in 1985, Monáe’s been a hot ticket for a while now, winning talent shows all over her native Kansas as a child (providing valuable supplementary income for her working-class parents), making a splash on OutKast’s Idlewild album and so impressing Diddy with her self-released digital EP Metropolis that he snapped her up for his Bad Boy record label and billed her as “perhaps the most important signing of my career”. Metropolis was the first of a four-part concept piece based on Fritz Lang’s movie, in which Monáe, cast as her “muse” Cindi Mayweather, returns from the future to lead a fight for android rights. She explains: “The android represents the new form of ‘the other’ – something I can relate to and I feel a lot of people can. We’re going to live in a world of androids anyway, I do believe, because of the rapid speed of technology, nanotechnology becoming smaller and faster every two years. So I pose the question: ‘Are we going to fear the android and treat them inhumanely, treat them like slaves?’” Monáe has stated such views so earnestly it’s led some critics to ponder whether she’s an android herself. But the new album, The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), lists human inspiration for each track.

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From Princess Leia’s ‘cinnamon buns’ hairstyle to the cover artwork for Stevie Wonder’s album The Music of My Mind, a kaleidoscope of influences inform Monáe’s unique vision. She says she sees music in terms of colours, dabbling away at a track until it’s the right “shade”. Yet her clothing is monochrome, a pattern of self-designed black and white suits that are strikingly androgynous, a suggestion she swats away imperiously. “Fashion is something you do, you don’t talk about it. I don’t even think it’s that important, I don’t believe in menswear and womenswear, it’s just a uniform paying homage to the working men and women. For me there’s just no grey area, it’s either black or white.” Now located in Atlanta, Georgia, with her Wondaland Arts Society – a collective of “graphic novelists, performance artists, actors, musicians, screenwriters, you name it” – Monáe is serious about her art. She retains full control over her music, clothes, hair (a spectacular pompadour), choreography – “not that I really choreograph anything, but if I wanted to, that would be up to me” – and believes fully in the transformative power of music. “We [Wondaland] are all using our unique gifts to help preserve art and use music as our weapon. We have the right to our imaginations and are unapologetic,” she states with the determined familiarity of a manifesto. It’s this desire to share her gift with the world that led Monáe to quit New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy and abandon her plans to become a Broadway star. At least for now. “I still love and respect it and I want to see ArchAndroid on Broadway,” she says, “but I had to leave to get into contact with the things that made me unique as a writer and as a performer. I didn’t want to be too influenced by anybody’s standardised teachings. I have to be involved in the creative process to be connected to it. That’s the only reason I didn’t stay in New York – I wanted to create my own New York.”


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POCTONE Seasonal Colours

AUCLAIR Dirt R 72 G 6 B 7

BLOCH Earth R 150 G 75 B 0

colours can speak a thousand words. Behold a palette of pantones inspired by the stories housed inside this mag.

slalom Gold R 194 G 178 B 28

a r t w o r k M I C KEY G

CANADIAN Maple R 246 G 176 B 21

FAVELA Walls R 255 G 255 B 0

BUNKER Beach R 255 G 255 B 131 012


POCTONE Seasonal Colours

POCTONE Seasonal Colours

POCTONE Seasonal Colours

BABY CHAMP Cape R 255 G 0 B 0

12BAR Blues R 0 G 9 B 127

Dalarna Spruce R 1 G 50 B 32

sNOWburnt Nose R 254 G 65 B 100

Sveriges Flagga R 0 G 82 B 147

HEALING Neem R 0 G 112 B 0

GULAL Spring R 236 G 0 B 140

SWALLOWTAIL Blรถe R 0 G 47 B 167

Japanese Ao R 0 G 165 B 80

BASQUIAT Chalk R 255 G 111 B 255

NYMAN Noggin R 30 G 144 B 255

OAKLAND Hope R 11 G 218 B 81

super JULES Tiara R 255 G 192 B 203

kalamalka Lake R 0 G 206 B 209

WOODWARD Turf R 124 G 252 B 0

ZERU Zeru R 229 G 229 B 226

MAUI Swell R 170 G 240 B 209

ACID High R 191 G 255 B 0 013


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positive

spin For Olympic medallist Julia Mancuso, the glass is always half full. w o r d s e d an d r e w s PHOTOGRAPHY lauren ross

There’s a lot to be said for positive thinking. That single-minded belief that your dreams will come true is very often what stands between failure and success. Just ask alpine ski racer Julia Mancuso. Positive thinking has always stood her in good stead, and the medals draped around her neck are testament to that. Hailing from California, twenty-six-year-old ‘Super Jules’ has earned a formidable reputation for her ability to charge through to podium finishes in all disciplines of ski racing. Having already claimed gold at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics in giant slalom, Julia headed to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics determined to win some more medals – and enjoy the spectacle with friends and family by her side. “Between skiing Whistler Blackcomb and partying, everyone just had a blast!” says Julia enthusiastically. “It fills me with a lot of joy to know that it was not only a celebration of my accomplishments, but really a celebration of experiencing the special energy of the Olympics together.” Feeding off the energy around her, Julia went on to claim two silver medals – one in downhill, the other in super combined. “Honestly, it felt like I had been preparing for those Olympics my whole life. Everything, from the ups to the downs, contributed to a crescendo and an experience I will always remember,” says Julia. “It is all about believing that your breakthrough moment will come… and it seems all that positive energy came together at the right time.” As Julia acknowledges, there were downs as well as ups. And when it came to defending her gold medal in giant slalom, it seemed luck wasn’t on her side. Julia left the starting gate not knowing that her US teammate and close competitor Lindsey Vonn had crashed just ahead of her and was still on the course. In line with competition

rules, Julia had to abandon her run and restart, disrupting her flow and putting her at a severe disadvantage. She finished eighth overall. At the time Julia felt frustrated with the result, but she’s learned to reflect on the situation with a more rational approach. “The whole situation sucked, but I never think, ‘What if?’ You have to move forward in life, and especially when things are out of your control. All you can do is your best,” says Julia, putting the incident behind her. “I fought hard to defend my gold, and that was the best I could do.” Despite Julia’s philosophical take, the media used the incident to build hype around an imagined rivalry between her and Lindsey. But personal feuds, insists Julia, are simply not her thing: “Competition to me is not to thumb your nose at the competition and say, ‘Ha! I beat your ass! I’m the best!’ Rather it’s about bringing out the best in yourself and presenting that to the world. If my best is good enough to win, then that’s just a bonus.” Beyond the world of skiing, Julia is pursuing another life-long dream with the recent launch of her own lingerie label, Kiss My Tiara. She explains: “Growing up there were two things I always wanted to be – an Olympic gold medallist and a fashion designer. So here I am now, trying the fashion thing out. I guess the reason I chose underwear was because I had a pair of lucky undies I used to race in. A skier’s competitive shelf life is only so long and since I have fun with fashion, I want to explore where that passion can take me.” Following her passions is what Julia does best. Whether she’s surfing in Maui (where she now lives), climbing mountains in aid of children’s charity Right to Play, or working on a TV show – an exciting new venture she’s staying tight-lipped about for now – you can bet Julia’s always looking on the upside of life.

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F r e e s k i e r JP A u c l a i r c o m e s d o w n f r o m t h e m o u n t a i n t o h e l p c o m m u n i t i e s a r o u n d t h e w o r l d . INTERVIEW Kristoffer Frenkel P H O T O G R A P H Y A l p i n e In i t i at i v e s

“Many paths, one peak,” goes the popular mountain analogy about reaching your goals. There is more than one way to make a difference and that’s something Canadian freeskier JP Auclair knows all too well. The thirty-three-year-old may have conquered the ski world with his progressive riding, but now he is making a positive impact in the developing world too. Along with a team of seasoned skiers and friends, JP travelled to Kenya in 2008 to help build an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to AIDS. But the “one-off” trip was so successful they wanted to do more and formed non-profit organisation Alpine Initiatives as a result. JP hopes the initiative will inspire the mountain community to get involved in similar grassroots projects. And he is determined that paths aren’t shaped with shovels alone. How did it all start? I was in Alaska in 2007, attending a guide course [in the Chilkat Mountains] to learn more about all aspects of the mountain. During the course I met Mikey Hovey, who was [training] to become a certified guide. We started to talk about life and wanting to get more involved with the world community. So how did you go from thought to action? We wanted to go somewhere to do something really simple, like help an existing project. We didn’t plan to start an organisation or anything like that. Some contacts – through a friend in a peace initiative – had an ongoing project in Kenya and we both thought it would be great to be a part of it. But the response [in Canada] was a lot more positive than we expected and people around us thought we should continue to raise money and help out. I talked to my sponsors about donations and the idea for a project of our own just sort of happened. So it was only supposed to be a one-time thing? Yes, at first we started [Alpine Initiatives] thinking it would be the best way of

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raising money to build a community orphanage in Meru, Kenya. But it felt strange to just [stop] after that. Especially as people around us started to show interest and pushed us to continue what we were doing. The platform for future projects was already there, so it was an easy choice. A non-profit organisation in Africa. Hasn’t that been done before? Yes but it wasn’t a case of sitting down to try to find where in the world it would be best to help others. We had an opportunity to go to Kenya and we took it. Our work had an impact on the local community. It’s as simple as that… You could look around and say, ‘I’m only going to help people in my own community, or my own province, or my own country.’ But for me, my neighbour in Kenya is just as important as my neighbour here in Quebec. What is your next project? Right now we are finishing the orphanage in Kenya. We are getting the whole operation to run smoothly without people getting stuck between chairs [so to speak]. That takes a lot of work. We have also just started a backcountry safety-awareness course that will take place here in Colorado this coming winter. It is only a one-day event, but it’ll be a great day. Has your opinion on charity changed since you got involved in Alpine Initiatives? At first, Mike and I were sort of naïve. We thought that two guys going to Kenya to shovel some dirt would be helpful… But [people in poverty] need [aid workers] who actually respect them, believe in them and really care. Only then will their self-esteem improve and that is an amazing feeling for both parties. My experience has taught me that that’s one of the most important things somebody can do for someone else. I’m really happy with what we’ve achieved.


Mikey Hovey.

JP Auclair.


F r o m I s tanb u l t o St o c k h o l m v i a L A , j a z z d r u mm e r I k i z i s ta k i ng i n t h e w o r l d . Words tim burrows i l l u s t r a t i o n a d r i an j o h n s o n

Sweden’s foremost jazz and funk drummer Robert Mehmet Sinan Ikiz is a busy man. Yet, between touring with his ever-growing roster of units, trios and quartets, hosting drumming workshops around the world and running his own label, Stockholm Jazz Records, with his band mate Daniel Tilling, he finds time to return to his native Istanbul. “There are moments when I feel I need that Istanbul injection,” he says. “Walking around the city you really get inspired by the smells, the noise and the colours. Just sitting by the Bosphorus [the Istanbul Strait], you can feel Istanbul’s power, its history.” Ikiz left Istanbul when he was three, following the military coup in Turkey which forced his father to leave the country. “He was an editor at Politika, a radical, left-wing magazine in Turkey back then,” Ikiz explains. “He fled to Germany, then Sweden in 1981 and was joined by my mother six months later.” Ikiz remained in Istanbul with his grandmother for a year and a half before joining them. Though potentially traumatic, it was a situation that led him to take his first steps towards becoming a drummer. “I started to play on my grandmother’s pots and pans when I was two or three,” he says. “She would listen to classical music, Tchaikovsky and Mozart, and I’d play along to it.” Flash-forward to his school days in Stockholm and Ikiz was already opening for big pop acts with his rock group Straight Ahead. “We were getting paid to play motorcycle clubs in front of Hells Angels by the time we were fourteen,” he says. “It was a weird period.” The band’s set consisted mainly of Jimi Hendrix songs. “I was heavily influenced by his drummer, Mitch Mitchell. He played rock with an open feel and could mix styles in a great way.”

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Ikiz went on to attend the Stockholm Music Conservatory and won a scholarship to study at the LA Music Academy in 1998. “What I liked about the scene in LA and the US in general is the straightforwardness of their approach,” he recalls. “You audition and, if you can play, you get the gig. They’re openminded about giving you a chance, but strict about how good you have to be to get it. In Sweden it is more about contacts, because there is less competition.” While he has dabbled in the pop music industry, backing international names such as London R&B star Leona Lewis, Ikiz has no desire to embark on a career in pop. “It was a great experience and I don’t regret it,” he says. “But touring with the kind of bands that I do now, such as the Nils Landgren Funk Unit who I was a fan of as a teenager, is what I have always wanted to do.” When in Stockholm, Ikiz tends to the wellbeing of Swedish jazz while working with the artists on his label Stockholm Jazz Records. “The jazz scene in Sweden goes back to the 1950s,” he says. “Miles and Coltrane visited a lot.” At the same time as acknowledging tradition, he sees a bright future for Swedish jazz, pointing to pianist Erik Lindeborg as a potential star. Right now, the talented drummer is gearing up to begin work on his first album as bandleader next year under his name Ikiz. Until then he is happy travelling, touring and recording with his label. “It might be different in a few years but right now I am just enjoying meeting new musicians and improving,” he says. “My job gets more fun each day that goes by.”


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This man is a tetraplegic. He’s also a sailor, a father and a pioneering professor. Meet Claes Hultling, the spinal cord injury specialist who’s breaking all taboos. words Shelley Jones PHOTOGRAPHY Anders lindén

Claes Hultling is a fiercely independent man. He radiates confidence in a way that is refreshingly free of ego or agenda. The fifty-sevenyear-old professor just seems completely comfortable in his own skin, despite (or perhaps in spite of) the challenges life has thrown at him. At the age of thirty, Claes dived off a jetty into the ocean, the same way he had done for fifteen years, and broke his neck on a newly sunk concrete pillar. He was instantly paralysed. But that’s really where Claes’ inspirational story begins. Like Aldous Huxley once said, ‘Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.’ And Claes has done more than most. “It’s in my genes,” he says, refusing to take credit. “I was just born this way and I haven’t changed much since my injury.” Claes was working as an emergency anesthesiologist before the accident, a role that perfectly reflects his energetic personality. He explains: “There is not a fraction of a second to reconsider whether you are right or not. It’s very instrumental, action oriented and it deals with life. If you succeed, your patient survives – and if you don’t, your patient dies.” But Claes relished the immediacy of his profession. “If you work in anesthesiology you can work the next hour, anywhere in the world,” he muses. “You rescue people pretty much the same way, wherever you are.” Care is a universal language and so too are people’s needs, despite their physical abilities. It’s an idea that has come to define Claes’ life and work since his injury. After visiting hundreds of spinal cord injury units and training with Sir George Bedbrook, the world’s foremost spinal cord injury doctor, Claes used his experience to challenge the old-fashioned approach of certain medical institutions. “Doctors are afraid when a patient starts crying,” he says. “They think they are depressed so they prescribe Prozac but the truth is they are not depressed, they are just sad.” So Claes set up his own unit, called Spinalis, to facilitate a new approach to spinal cord injury rehabilitation using cognitive and philosophical therapy, which can help put things into perspective. “Three weeks after my injury I left the hospital and travelled out to

Landsort, an archipelago off Sweden,” remembers Claes. “It’s the most important journey I’ve ever made in my life… A fisherman came up, sort of patted me on my shoulder and said, ‘Shit happens. Too bad you broke your neck. You want a drink?’ And I was able to exercise my grief.” Claes doesn’t like the stigma attached to disability and urges his patients to take their frustration and channel it into positive rebellion. “You don’t have to accept your injury and you don’t have to cope with your injury,” says Claes in opposition to traditional therapy, “but you have to learn to live with it. If you are constantly being persuaded to cope and accept, you’re actually sort of stepping down. You’re accepting something that makes you less alert and less eager to turn the page and go on with your life. But if you just learn to live with your spinal cord injury you can still remain rebellious, you can still question things and you can still look forward to the next day.” So the Stockholm-based professor encourages his patients to ride custom-built cars and three-wheeled motorcycles as well as motorboats and sailboats. He rejects the notion of disability as taboo – penning a collection of recipes entitled Cook Book For Cripps – and works relentlessly to improve his patients’ standard of living. “Rehab is usually dull, boring and mediocre,” he says, “and my task has been trying to make it sexier.” In fact, Spinalis has been so successful Claes now consults units around the world and is in the process of founding another rehabilitation centre in Botswana where there is currently no infrastructure. But that’s not all. In 2000 he introduced sailing, his personal passion, into the Paralympics and he is also working with POC as part of their POC Lab initiative to create safer helmets for more outrageous riders. Disproving more assumptions, Claes also became the first tetraplegic man to father a child – something doctors said would be impossible. He has since treated about three hundred people and jokes, “I have one hundred and fifty lives on my conscience.” But the truth is, through his hard work revolutionising spinal injury rehabilitation, he is responsible for the improved lives of thousands more.

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A l l - t e r r a i n f r e e s k i e r B l a k e N y man i s l o o k i ng f o r i n s p i r at i o n h e r e , t h e r e an d e v e r y w h e r e . W o r d s e d an d r e w s P h o t o g r a p h y a d am c l a r k

“Adventure? I can find it anywhere, from riding a scooter through the city to hiking a mountain in the middle of nowhere,” says Blake Nyman with leisurely contemplation. The twenty-six-year-old freeskier may look for adventure everywhere, but the mountain is one place he truly calls home, whether he’s chasing powder in the backcountry or jibbing in the park. Growing up in the Wasatch Mountain Range near Salt Lake City, Utah, Blake saw skiing as a “family endeavour” and, under the guidance of his ski instructor parents, he started ski racing aged just five. But instead of following his older brother Steven into the disciplined world of professional alpine ski racing, Blake chose a somewhat freer path, inspired by Matchstick Productions’ seminal freeskiing film Sick Sense. “The opening montage got me,” he says. “Subconsciously I thought, ‘I want to do this.’” Blake had taken a few years off from skiing to snowboard, but after the film “pulled [him] back in” he tried his hand at every ski discipline, only narrowly missing out on a place in ski cross at the Winter X Games when he was seventeen. More recently, Blake has been filming with snow crew Nimbus Independent and, having honed his all-terrain skills in front of the camera, is due to appear in upcoming video En Route: Nomads. “I don’t like to think I’m just a single-disciplined skier,” he explains. “I like to make sure that if I go into the backcountry I can handle myself, and if I go into the park I can do well there too.” So where does this holistic approach stem from? Blake draws unlikely inspiration from pro skater Andrew Reynolds – a man renowned for his quirky pre-skating routines. “That guy is The Boss,” says Blake. “He has this OCD approach and follows the same pattern to make sure he is in the right mindset before he drops in. I’ve found myself doing that… I’ll put my right boot in first, tap my pole a couple of times, touch my helmet… It helps me get my head clear.” It’s not surprising to hear Blake looks beyond skiing for a hit of inspiration. The new-school approach to freeskiing is known for its outwardlooking ethos, often borrowing tricks from snowboarding and in turn pushing snowboarders to reach crazy new heights. And with an adventurous guy like Blake at the fore, that cross-pollination of style is a good thing for all. As Blake explains: “A lot of the elements in skiing wouldn’t exist without snowboarding… But it’s an ebb and flow in both directions.”

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L i f e i n B r a z i l ’ s f a v e l a s j u s t g o t t h at m u c h b r i g h t e r , t h an k s t o t h e t r an s f o r mat i v e p o w e r o f a n e w l i c k o f p a i nt . Words shelley jones P h o t o g r a p h y h aa s & h a h n , D o u g l a s e ng l e

The people of Brazil have a history of using the arts to subvert social injustice. During the military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 to 1985, thousands of radical artists were exiled for creativity that challenged authority. From Tropicalia pioneer Caetano Veloso who penned lyrics like ‘singing to keep away the sadness’ and theatre practitioner Augusto Boal who founded the Theatre of the Oppressed, there is a tradition in Brazil of creating beauty and light out of hardship. And it’s always done with the characteristic Brazilian sense of optimism. Given that past, it’s not surprising that a new project by Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, which aims to brightenup an entire favela in Rio de Janeiro with rainbow shades of paint, has been met with such positive fervour. “This work of art,” says Dre about their most recent masterpiece covering thirty-four houses at the entrance of the Santa Marta favela, “can make a colourful difference in the lives of local individuals, the community and the city of Rio. It has the potential to work as a catalyst in the processes of social renewal and change.” The two creative philanthropists originally travelled to Rio in 2004 to film a documentary, called Firmeza Total, about hip hop in the slums of Brazil. But after a month of hanging out with the locals they felt compelled to see if they could use their skills to make a positive impact. Dre explains: “The idea grew out of the community itself… We were hanging out with all these kids who were creating graffiti, hip hop and graphics and we wanted to find a way to channel that creativity into something more productive… A lot of people say, ‘I want to do something good for the world,’ but not everyone is going to go to Africa and build a well. I would not be good at that. But this is something Jeroen and I are good at and we feel very personally attached to. If you can make your profession actually add something positive to the world, I think that’s the most beautiful outcome possible.” So the inspired duo stayed in Rio and set up Favela Painting, a not-for-profit initiative that aims to transform the drab walls of slum exteriors into kaleidoscopic slideshows. But is a lick of paint really that radical? Especially when the designs brightly eschew any overt political message. “The most obvious thing would be to try and make some sort of political statement,” acknowledges Dre. “But we thought by stripping

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the designs of any politics and focusing on making something very likeable, very happy, joyful and colourful, we would actually make a statement that was even more political. It allows more room for interpretation. So little children can enjoy it, older people can enjoy it, and also young people can find it really cool. We didn’t want to be restricted to a niche where you only cater for one group of society.” But does Favela Painting, as a “non-political statement”, have the capacity to benefit local communities beyond sensory pleasure – considering the daily battles most inhabitants face, due to poverty, unemployment and substandard living conditions? Dre and Jeroen are sure of it. In fact, they’ve seen the transformation firsthand. “Some of our painters actually become professional painters,” confirms Dre who, together with Jeroen, has ensured that all painters from the favela get paid a decent wage and receive training, like in any good job. In fact, Jeroen and Dre are the only volunteers. Says Dre: “[Some of our painters] found jobs and through our project they’ve actually improved their future and had the opportunity to make something out of their lives... And that’s just one side of it. Some people just get very inspired to try to figure out what they can do, or how they can do something positive with their creativity.” And the designs, they insist, are not trying to paper over any cracks or disguise the socio-economic problems encircling favela life. Instead, Dre hopes the paintings will draw attention to the favelas and say: “Look we are here and we are valid, we do exist and we do add something positive to society. So you can’t overlook us, and forget us and incriminate us.” But Dre isn’t trying to speak for the favelas because the idea, he claims, came straight from ‘the hill’. He explains: “The idea was actually born in the favelas and the community has been included every step of the way. So there’s a big sense of ownership and it means we never have to explain the project to the community because, basically, the community explains the project to us… It’s very different bringing an idea from the West and imposing it on somewhere than actually coming up

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with the idea in that place itself. This idea was born in Rio, it’s actually a Brazilian idea.” And despite the very real social problems in Rio, Dre and Jeroen are truly in love with its inexorable spirit. “There’s a war going on,” says Dre gravely, about the ongoing clashes between warring drug factions and police. So didn’t they feel intimidated? “Yes, but we weren’t more or less in danger than everybody who’s walking the streets there every day. The highest amount of deaths is through stray bullets and they don’t ask your name or where you’re from. So they hit little children, grandmothers, Brazilians and, obviously, they can hit Dutch artists too.” He explains further: “I mean you are in a place where there’s almost a daily chance of a shootout between drug gangs and police. But alongside that, people are trying to live a normal life and raise their children… It makes life very difficult and very hard.” But the Dutch artists refuse to be disheartened, encouraged for the most part by the inhabitants of the favelas themselves, and after painting the entire Santa Marta favela – their ultimate goal – they hope to take their idea to other places in the world like Jakarta and Mumbai. “The Brazilian people, regardless of their income and social status, are very open and friendly,” insists Dre. “You will find aggression out of poverty but you will never find an aggressive spirit. People live with a sense of companionship and brotherhood. So if you ask somebody for directions they will go out of their way to give them to you… England and Holland are both countries where people have quite a high standard of social living but often it’s very hard to find a smile. It’s crazy to be from a country where there’s so much opportunity but so little happiness and then to go to a place where there’s so much hardship and yet more willingness to look at life in a positive way… I think what we’re trying to do is combine the positive parts of the world we know with the one we have discovered. And we hope with that we can inspire other people to do the same.”

Douglas Engle.

Dre Urhahn (left) and Jeroen Koolhaas (right) in front of the newly painted entrance to the Santa Marta favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


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�ou don’� have to be � genius t� name ever� hu� i� th� rainbo�, bu� hav� yo� ever stoppe� t� wonde� wha� ‘blue’ reall� is? Or whether things are still coloured in the dark? Thanks t� centuries o� dee� thinking i� science an� ar�, ou� understanding of colour ha� change� greatl� over tim�. POC Mag looks bac� o� some colour theorie� fro� th� pas� in a� effort t� mak� sense o� ou� vibrant worl�. Words Philip Ball ILL U S T RA T I O N s An d y G i l mo r e

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Can we agree about colour? Not in my experience. If I call red what you call orange or dark pink, we might be arguing about where our different life histories have taught us to draw boundaries on the map of ‘colour space’. Or we might genuinely perceive the colours differently, because of differences in the light-sensitive proteins in our eyes. Or we might be shackled by linguistic differences. Russian has no single word for ‘blue’, but two different ones for light and dark blue. In Japanese, ao can mean green or blue, depending on the context. When friends of the British artist Derek Jarman used to admire his bright green coat, he’d tell them that in Japan, where he bought it, it was sold as ‘yellow’. But it has always been hard to talk about colour. How many ‘primary’ colours are there, and what are they? Where do colours come from? Are things still coloured in the dark? These sound like scientific questions, but they are also tied to culture and language. And the people who, throughout history, made most use of colour, and therefore came to know it most intimately, were not scientists but craftspeople: painters, dyers, glassmakers and potters. Often they didn’t need (or want) scientists telling them how they should think about colour, because the ways we use it have typically been determined by what we find appealing, or how much coloured substances cost, or by symbolic purposes, all of which have little to do with science. The ancient Greeks thought colours were mixtures of light and dark, and they believed both red and green contained roughly equal proportions of each. That’s one reason why red and green were once confused – the medieval word sinople could refer to either – which seems bizarre to us today. Blue was considered a kind of black: ‘dark’ with a little light added. So the Greek words for blue and black overlap. When science really got going in the seventeenth century, the first true scientists hoped to clear up all this confusion. But they only made it worse. They suspected that if we could understand the rainbow, which seemed to contain all the colours there are (just don’t ask about brown, grey or pink), we’d have cracked the problem. Everyone knew that a sort of artificial rainbow could be created when sunlight shines through a prism of clear crystal – you can see the same thing when light goes through a glass of water, emerging as a spectrum of colours. Isaac Newton, around 1665, was the first person to explain correctly how this spectrum is formed. He let a single beam of sunlight enter a darkened room and passed it through a prism to make a spectrum. But then Newton let this multicoloured light pass through a second prism, which squeezed it back into a beam of white light. It had previously been thought that the prism somehow alters white light to make it coloured. But Newton’s experiment showed that the colours were already ‘in’ the white light – the prism just separates them out. Newton also split off just one part of the spectrum – red, say – and showed that, when this was passed through the second prism, it was unchanged: it

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couldn’t be split further into other colours. So, said Newton, colours are all about light. When sunlight falls on a coloured object, some of the colours in the light are absorbed, and the others are reflected to our eye. Green grass absorbs the reds and yellows and blues, but reflects the green. And this is true. We now understand that grass contains a pigment substance called chlorophyll, which absorbs red and blue light strongly and converts the light’s energy into chemical energy that allows the plant to grow. Newton decided that the spectrum and the rainbow contain seven basic colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. You might have learnt this at school, but it’s actually a bit of mysticism rather than science. Newton believed that there must be seven colours because he thought there was an analogy between the components of light and the seven notes in the musical scale (do-re-mi etc.). This is plain wrong, and today’s colour scientists usually recognise just six spectral colours, with indigo and violet lumped together as purple. Yet Newton was apparently saying that all the colours mixed together make white. To painters, this was just nonsense: if you mix all your paints, you get dirty brownish-black. And while Newton seemed to say that all the rainbow colours were equal, painters knew that orange, green and purple (so-called secondary colours) can be mixed from red, blue and yellow (primary colours), but not vice versa. This mixing quandary was one of the things that led the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to criticise Newton’s theory of colour in the eighteenth century. Something about Newton’s ideas really upset Goethe, who complained that Newton’s experiment made ‘twisted light’. Goethe fancied himself as a scientist and was determined to supplant Newton’s theory of colour with his own, described in his book Theory of Colours (1810). Much of it hasn’t stood the test of time. Goethe didn’t believe that white light is a mixture of colours, but argued that light becomes coloured when it is ‘disturbed’ by darkness. Like many semi-mystics, he saw things literally in black and white, explaining everything in terms of opposites: light/shadow, bright/dark, day/night, warm/cold, attraction/repulsion. Goethe insisted that there are only two primary colours, yellow and blue; red, he said, was somehow a mixture (he called it an ‘augmentation’) of these two. Some artists liked these ideas – and some still do. Goethe’s book inspired J. M. W. Turner’s painting Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning After the Deluge, which is made up almost entirely of yellow, red and blue. Scientists are usually less tolerant of Goethe now, but his colour theory did add one crucial element to our understanding. Whereas for Newton colour is something that happens ‘out there’ in the physical world, Goethe insisted that there are biological and psychological aspects too. In particular, he stressed the idea of complementary colours, which are sort of ‘opposites’.


Fig. 1

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Fig. 2

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Each of the primary colours red, yellow and blue is complementary to the secondary colour made by mixing the other two: red/green, blue/ orange and yellow/purple. Goethe described how, if we gaze for a long time at a particular colour and then look away, we may see an ‘afterimage’ of the same object in its complementary colour. He recalled how once in an inn he had seen a girl in a red dress and then, looking away towards a white wall, seen her after-image in green. These complementary after-images are a real effect – some optical illusions make use of them. They are a result of the way the eye works, and many nineteenth century artists, especially the Impressionists, decided to use complementary colours to make their paintings look bright and vibrant. Likewise, Goethe’s focus on what goes on in the eye and brain was endorsed in the nineteenth century by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell who said, “The science of colour must be regarded as essentially a mental science.” It was Maxwell who finally sorted out the discrepancy between what Newton said about colour mixing and what artists found to be true. There is a difference, Maxwell showed, between mixing pigments and mixing light. The first is called subtractive mixing, because each new colour you add absorbs another chunk of the spectrum and leaves less to be reflected to the eye. So as you go on mixing more colours, the mixture gets darker and murkier. But if you mix coloured light, you’re essentially building the spectrum up from its coloured components, and when all the spectral colours are included you get white light: this is called additive mixing. Compare the mixing of red and green: if you do this with paint, you get brown, but red and green light combine to make bright yellow. This difference also means that the primary colours are different for additive mixing: instead of red, blue and yellow, they are (more or less) red, blue and green. That’s why every pixel of a colour TV is made up of three light sources that glow red, blue and green. Maxwell showed how light in these three colours can be combined to project full-colour images onto a screen, and he worked out the basic principles of colour photography. If you watch a colour TV, you could easily imagine that these three primaries of red, blue and green light can be combined to create every colour imaginable. But that’s not quite true. You can only reach a certain amount of 'colour space' this way. The odd thing about the spectrum is that it can be closed up end to end: because it starts with red and ends with violet, we can easily merge these two ends by making the violet gradually redder and the red gradually more violet. This creates a so-called colour wheel (see fig. 1): a ring of all possible colours. For technical reasons, however, scientists found in the early twentieth century that the real shape of colour space (see fig. 2) is not exactly a circle but a kind of tongue shape, flat at one end. Purplish blue and red

sit at opposite corners of the flat end, while the tip of the tongue is green. But the colours that can be made by choosing three primary light sources are limited to a triangle whose corners are the positions of the primaries in this colour space. Some points of the space will always fall outside it – in particular, it’s hard to capture the deepest greens. How authentic the colours are on a TV or computer screen, compared to those in the real world, therefore depends on how well the primaries used for the pixels are chosen. This is a technological problem: we need light-emitting materials that are good primaries. Maxwell’s work helped to clarify how we see colour. The lightsensitive retina in our eyes contains cone-shaped cells that absorb light of different colours and send signals to the brain (the retina also has rod-shaped light-sensing cells that don’t discriminate between colours, but are more sensitive in dim light. That’s why we can’t really make out colours at night). There are three types of cone cells: roughly speaking, these respond to red, green and blue-purple light. The brain decodes the signals it gets from each class of cone cells, and figures out the corresponding colour. Yellow light, for example, will stimulate the red and green cells, but not the blue cells. There’s no fundamental reason why we should have just three types of cone cell. Just two would be enough to allow us to discriminate colours, since each colour would stimulate the two types of cell in a unique proportion. But three gives us a finer colour sense, because the brain then gets more information for making a comparison between colours. Some animals, such as certain birds and fish, have four types of cone cell, and so they have a better colour sense than us. If they could speak, it’s a fair bet that they’d have more basic colour words, rather than resorting to ‘bluish-green’ and so forth. How well we can judge between colours also depends on what colours the cones are most sensitive to. Bees have cones that respond to ultraviolet light, which lies beyond the violet end of the spectrum, and so they can see ‘colours’ in some flower petals that are invisible to us. In theory, we’d get the best colour discrimination by spacing the sensitivities of the three types of cone cell evenly across the visible spectrum. But it turns out that our colour sense is biased towards the red-yellow end, and less good at making fine distinctions at the blue end. Evolutionary biologists think that our red and green cones evolved from a single type of cell in our ape-like ancestors. Most monkeys in the New World are still like this – they only have two types of cone cell. Why did we become able to spot fine differences in reds, oranges and yellows? It may be that our ancestors needed to be able to see ripe fruit, which often has these colours, among the many different greens of a forest canopy. All of which perhaps makes it understandable that we make finely graded distinctions between shades of red, orange and pink – even if we can’t all agree on what to call them

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Bunker takes down a gemsbok antelope with a clean single shot in South West Africa, 1975. 034


�rom the heigh� of a privileged Hawaiian upbringing to his drug-saturated death, the wild ride of �dolph Bunker �preckels is surf culture’� most decadent tal�. WORDS MICHAEL FORDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY ART BREWER

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cenes from a life: a barechested Nordic Uberman rests a rifle over his shoulder – tight, high-waisted trousers hugging his hips, his eyes hidden behind gold-rimmed aviators; the Teuton’s right hand clasps the rifled horn of the antelope he has just slain. A blond kid kissed by sun and sea hugs a stubby, disc-shaped surfboard and stares impassively into the lens. A side-burned geezer in a low-necked surf T-shirt skateboards across a European city square, rocking a skin-tight, pearl-white set of flares. A whacked-out, moustached freak stares into the lens against the backdrop of a wrecked hotel room – his expression haunted. A quiver of strange surfboards is laid out like the spokes of a wheel, at the centre of which stands a camp figure in a smoking jacket on a leopard skin rug. Adolph ‘Bunker’ Spreckels was a shape-shifter. The essence of what he was metamorphosed moment-to-moment, year-to-year. By the time his story came to a close in 1977 he was synonymous with the edgier, creative side of surfing at a time of cataclysmic cultural change, and a poster child for drug-riddled celebrity excess. Bunker was born heir to a Maui sugar fortune and an inheritor of a legacy intertwined with Hawaiian culture. His great grandfather, a sugar-plantation oligarch, defended Hawaiian independence in the face of colonial and missionary pressure, and as a friend to the Royal Hawaiian Line was regarded as the reincarnation of a prince by the old kahunas, custodians of island lore. He was taught arcane rituals by the Hawaiians, and was schooled in ways unknown to other haoles [foreigners]. He was an anointed one. He played at Waikiki and private breaks in California and became a highly skilled surfer, sipping sweet nectar from the family’s silver spoon. In 1955, Bunker’s mother married Clark Gable when the actor was at the absolute height of his wealth, fame and influence, and the Spreckels profile shot into the stratosphere. “I am proud of my heritage,” he told writerartist C.R. Stecyk III during a series of interviews in 1976, right at the end of his short life. “But it has its drawbacks. I think in the long run I’ll be able to win the game that I’m playing. It’s kind of a hard thing for people to understand, the type of egos, the type of relationships that I’ve dealt

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with and put up with through my life. Even if I sat down and spelled it out to them, they still wouldn’t understand it because they haven’t lived that way and they don’t know what it’s like.”

biography in brief: Bunker is taught to hunt by his stepfather in Africa. He swans in the Hollywood limelight in between trips up and down the coast – to Malibu and to Rincon, and of course trips back to the Hawaiian Islands for the big waves of winter. At some point Bunker goes off the rails, and his family blame the freewheeling crew he meets at ’Bu. At Malibu no one cares who he is, or who his family are, or who his stepfather is. It’s how you surf and how you hold yourself that truly matters. Dark prince of the ’Bu, Miki Dora himself, names Bunker ‘Genetic Space Child’, and in the period that spans the mid-to-late ’60s, the Space Child ventures into the realms of the unknown, sprinkled with psychedelic stardust and pioneering trips to outlying surfing outposts. Each winter in Hawaii, Bunker returns to the North Shore to ride some of the shortest, strangest, most radical shortboard designs, developing on the way the first manifestations of the down-railed surfboard. Despite the ubiquity of psychedelics in his surf career, it was in the surf where Bunker perhaps came closest to the essence of himself. Outside of the surf, it seemed, he needed too many external influences to define him. “I think that the only drugs that really brought surfing through to another level were the psychedelic types,” he told Stecyk, “mushrooms, mescaline, psilocybin. Other drugs are like anesthesia. They make you so numb that they shut your senses down so you can’t feel the currents around you. They make you numb.” It was in the autumn of 1969 that surf photographer Art Brewer bumped into Bunker walking along the beach at Pipeline. “I’d heard of Bunker before,” Art tells me down the line from his home in Dana Point, California, “from when he used to surf the obscure spots around point Loma – then I saw him with this strange little red board on this evening with a full moon.” The picture he took of Bunker at that moment has become a defining image of the particularly colourful period in surf culture known as the shortboard revolution.


Art Brewer encounters Bunker Spreckels for the first time while walking down the beach at Pipeline, Hawaii, 1969. 037


Bunker and his girlfriend Ellie play in the gardens before lunch at Jardin Lecoq restaurant in Paris, France, 1975. 038


Bunker power surfs the outer reefs of Tunnels Beach in Kauai, the northernmost island of Hawaii, 1973.

The psychedelically motored changes that were gaining pace in the wider world were mirrored and intensified within surfing. And Bunker (also known as Anthony to friends) was at the forefront of these imaginative leaps right from the start. “You could tell right away that the kid was a little different. He was kind of spacey and fairly gaunt and otherworldly. But as well as this aspect of him he was a really brilliant surfer, so he was interesting on so many different levels.” In this period Bunker helped to re-invent the vision of what it is to ride a wave, and expressed this vision in pioneering the seldom-ridden righthanders that reel off the peak at Pipeline. Riding prone, kneeling, crouching and straight-legged – sometimes on the same wave – Bunker threw out the style sheet and expressed each ride in a radically new grammar. Art became friends with Bunker and saw him regularly in the winter seasons on the North Shore, and also over on the Californian coast. As the 1970s arrived, Bunker started spending a lot of time in California with Tony Alva and C.R. Stecyk III, of the original Dogtown skate crew. Bunker was responsible to a great extent, according to Art, for the vision that made Tony Alva a skateboarding superstar. “He was a cultural terrorist, for sure,” Art tells me, “he could see what the potentials were for surfing and skateboarding to become huge global industries driven by superstars. It was Bunker, for example, who scored Mick Jagger’s jumpsuit for Alva. He taught him to play up on his personality, treat skateboarding like a real sport, and to cultivate a radical persona.”

ust as the shortboard revolution came to its full fruition, Bunker finally inherited his family’s fortune. That was when things really started to get freaky. The world truly became Bunker’s chalice. And he began to drink heartily of that cup. Retaining a coterie of writers, artists, photographers and filmmakers, he became the lead character in a globally unfolding docudrama. “There was all sort of talk about how much he inherited,” says Art. “People spoke about fifty-million dollars and stuff, but I don’t even think there was that much. I’m pretty sure he would have run out eventually, and instead made his own money becoming some sort of entertainment industry guru.” However much he actually inherited, the money accelerated Bunker’s self-created myth. There were endless parties, endless hangers-on, endless Bunker groupies and ridiculous adventures, usually involving coteries of beautiful girls, surfer druggies and souped-up Honolulu mincers on the lig. But nestling at the heart of the Spreckels mission was the spark of a creative endeavour, albeit the ultimate in artistic self-indulgence. “Bunker called me up one day and just asked me if I had a passport,” Art says. “I said I had and he said if I wanted to come to South Africa with him, to meet up with him at Honolulu Airport.” In the early 1970s, of course, the worldtravelling circus that is the professional surfing tour hadn’t even been imagined. Bunker saw the future. He saw that to document a round-the-world journey with himself at the centre of the drama – drawing

in waves, wildlife and wild times – just might be the way to sell the edgy lifestyle of surfing to the masses. “We met up at the airport and he walked up to the Pan Am desk and just bought us first class, roundthe-world tickets.” The crew eventually made it to South West Africa (now Namibia) via London. They surfed obscure waves. They dressed up in outfits. They hunted antelope. By the time the home leg of the trip was due, Art knew he had to get off the ride before things got out of control. Madcap adventures soon became the texture of things. There was a constantly recycling roster of glamorous females, fast cars, outrageous costumes and drugs, drugs, drugs. Bunker becomes ‘the player’– a character in his own self-created drama: and eventually, this composite begins to assume a colossus-like position straddling over the charred and battered remnants of his identity. By late 1976, Bunker begins to exist only in the mediated reality that he created for himself. He is found dead in January of the following year, at the age of twenty-seven, in a hotel room in Paris. The coroner reports the death to be of natural causes. Perhaps when you cross so much natural creative energy with untrammelled wealth, the coroner was making a point. “The appeal of Bunker’s story is that he was like this shooting star that blazed real bright, but then just had to fall back to earth,” says Art. “Bunker had everything going for him, but in the end it destroyed him.” BUNKER: THE VISUAL RIDE III

THROUGH THE LENS OF

OF

ADOLPH BERNARD SPRECKELS

ART BREWER

IS AVAILABLE IN TWO

12”X12” VOLUMES FROM WWW.BLURB.COM.

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�lementa� Forc� Kicking back with TJ Schiller, the freeskiing sensation who knows that being in your element is about doing what you love. Words Shelley Jones P h o t o g r a p h y J EN n i f e r O S B ORNE

ou can learn a lot about people from how they choose to kick back. Take Canadian freeskier TJ Schiller. Approximately four kilometres south of his hometown in Vernon, British Columbia, lies one of his favourite places to relax in the world: a beautiful glacial lake sunk in a valley surrounded by mountains and trees. But like TJ, there is more to Lake Kalamalka than first meets the eye. A strange chemical reaction occurs in the water of Kalamalka, colloquially known as ‘the lake of many colours,’ which causes it to change from cyan to indigo and a myriad of brilliant shades in between. It’s a spectacle for sure, a stunning symbiosis of nature and light. “It looks tropical or something,” TJ says in total awe. And the dude knows better than most how to interact creatively with his surroundings. “I could [jump in] all damn day, every day… Sometimes you’ll get a line of boats just hanging out watching and it almost starts to feel like a big air contest.”

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TJ’s love for Kalamalka is hardly surprising then, because the twenty-four year-old is a total sucker for big air. The “lap, jump, progress” style contest is where he really shines and it was during the big air event at the 2010 Winter X Games that he pulled the first ever double cork 1620 – four and a half rotations with two flips – in freeski history. “I was like, ‘Holy shit man,’” TJ says. “I didn’t think I could do it. But I just did it… the annoying thing is I don’t even remember landing. I just remember getting to the bottom and watching myself on the screen – you just sort of black out, you know.” Truth is, TJ doesn’t ever really analyse his skiing – it’s just second nature to him. At school the sporty teen struggled with academic work but thanks to his mum’s intuitive parenting he was able to embark on an education all of his own. He explains: “[Mum] knew I had a difficult time reading but as soon as she saw me skiing she was like, ‘This kid was born to do that.’ She knew that school wasn’t my thing and skiing had to be my focus… So after I graduated she let me leave early and that allowed me the chance to go to the US Open, and I ended up winning it.” Suddenly TJ, who had never left Canada before, became an international ski superstar. It’s a time he will remember for the rest of his life. “In two weeks I went from being a high school kid to winning one of the biggest freeski contests in the world,” he says looking back. “And then I was travelling to Europe to go ski powder with all my heroes I’d looked up to. That’s how my professional ski career started. I was seventeen years old. It was a crazy, crazy time.” But the heavy hitter was more than prepared. He moved from Vancouver to Vernon when he was just twelve years old and after meeting longtime friend and fellow freeski pro Josh Bibby, he spent every second he could in the mountains. With Bibby’s dad as their ski coach, the two friends tore up the wintery landscape and had their minds blown by the new-school movement coming through. “Josh bought a New Canadian Air Force video from our local ski shop,” says TJ. “When we saw these guys grabbing their skis and riding backwards, we were like, ‘What the hell!’ After that, it was all we wanted to do everyday; go get our skis and ride backwards. And I guess not a whole lot has changed.”

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TJ Schiller jumps into Lake Kalamalka.

The new style was rebellious and subversive, actively resisting the restrictive laws put on freestyle events by the International Ski Federation (FIS). But it wasn’t for the faint of heart – and not everyone was prepared to take those first giant leaps. “All I wanted to do was hit the jumps,” says TJ. “There weren’t people back in that day, at our mountain, who would do aerial skiing. But we would just toss huge spread eagles and [develop] all that old school freestyle stuff.” TJ and his crew of buddies may have felt outnumbered when they first introduced aerial skiing to their home mountain of Silver Star, but with talented freeskiing pioneers popping up across the globe, there was always someone they could look up to for inspiration. For TJ that person was fellow Canadian JP Auclair. “You could watch [JP] skiing and you just knew he was having fun, living his life and being creative,” says TJ. “He just has a good time and works hard. I saw him and I was like, ‘That dude knows how to live life. I wanna do that.’” Just as freeskiers rebelled against their traditional predecessors, so too did early snowboarders against the ski establishment. In fact, many ski areas banned snowboarding when it was first pioneered in the 1980s, seeing it as wild and unsafe. And with that divisive move, the stereotype was set: skiing was conservative and straight-laced; snowboarding was radical and subversive. But things have come full circle. And now, with a new crop of freeskiers like TJ taking charge, skiing is reclaiming the hardcore rep it

rightfully deserves, through gnarlier video parts (check out TJ and Team Canada’s punkish entry for the 2010 Jon Olsson Invitational) as well as experimental riding and a more creative outlook. And they refuse to acknowledge any crossdiscipline beef. “You go on the mountain today and we’re all friends, there’s no rivalry,” says the super affable TJ. “We’re more or less doing the same thing and I’ve got some great friends who snowboard professionally. They’re out supporting us at contests and we’re out supporting them.” And the two sports continue to get more and more extreme as a result. “[Freeskiing] keeps getting gnarlier and gnarlier every single year, every day,“ says TJ. “I don’t see it slowing down… When I see someone do a crazy trick I’m like, ‘Ah really, did you have to go and do that?’ Because then I have to go and learn something crazier. But that’s fun because it pushes things. It’s how I get my adrenaline, for sure.” TJ may love raising the bar and getting high on contest airs but he’s at his happiest when skiing powder with friends. “When you climb to the peak of a mountain and there’s nobody around, it’s serenity, you know?” says the outdoorsy dude. “You’re just in the mountains, with a couple of buddies… you’re far away from everything and yet you’re there in front of everything. I like that feeling. You’re in your element: body, mind and soul.” And that’s TJ’s extraordinary skill. Anyone can see a colourchanging lake but it takes somebody special to truly appreciate it

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Maria Pietilä Holmner

AndrĂŠ Myhrer

Mattias Hargin


�hen the pressur� was mounting a� the 2010 Winter �lympics, th� �wedish ski tea� found strength i� number�. Words ed andrews Photography nisse schmidt

The Winter Olympics date back to 1924 when the first Games took place in Chamonix, France. While athletes competed as individuals across all alpine disciplines, the spirit was very much one of national pride. You were no longer just competing for personal glory, but to win medals for your country in the hope your nation would come out on top. Fast-forward eighty-six years to February 2010, and the twenty-first edition of the Winter Olympics descended on Vancouver, Canada. While the format may have changed considerably since its inception, the tradition of national teams remained intact, with around 2,600 athletes attending from eighty-six countries. Sweden was just one of those nations, fielding a formidable ski team that included Mattias Hargin, Maria Pietilä Holmner and André Myhrer. In the highly competitive world of ski racing, where just a fraction of a second stands between first and second place and athletes compete as individuals, the Olympics provide a rare opportunity for solidarity. And the three Swedes, explains André, revelled in that camaraderie: “We have a pretty good feeling in the team. We are buddies so we have a good flow. When everyone is motivated, you push each other. And it’s great to have other people there when you are training.” For twenty-four-year-old Mattias, the opportunity to represent his country was a welcome

break from the ‘each man for himself ’ mentality he is used to. “In the FIS [International Ski Federation] World Cup, you are competing for yourself, but in the Olympics, you are competing for Sweden,” says Mattias, who finished a respectable fourteenth place in slalom in what were his first Games. “It’s a cool experience.” For teammate Maria, the Olympic experience wasn’t quite what she envisioned. “My goal was to podium,” says the twenty-four-year-old, who narrowly missed out on a medal when she finished fourth in slalom with just a few tenths of a second standing between her and third place. “Right afterwards, I was disappointed because it’s only every four years and you really want to do your best. Fourth position isn’t where you want to be, but it was one of my best results in skiing so I was satisfied.” The podium, however, did not elude André who claimed bronze in the slalom. “I was in Torino so I had some experience of the Olympics and felt pretty good about competing,” says the twentyseven-year-old. “I tried to do my best and just do what I trained for.” And giving it your all is what the Olympics are about, with competitors pushing themselves – and each other – harder than ever. It’s that ‘go for broke’ mentality that helped André claim his medal but also the reason he got a DNF (Did Not

Finish) in the giant slalom. “I always try to ski my best and when you are at this level sometimes you fall,” he says, philosophically. But whether they won or lost, finished or fell, their teammates were there to offer support. As Maria explains: “We spend so much time together that the ski team has become our second family. We work as a group up until the point you are alone at the start. Then you are just competing for yourself.” That feeling of unity, says Mattias, can often feed the competitive spirit within: “We try to help each other and push one another to the next level. You [need to] cheer, ‘Come on!’ when they are racing and give them more congratulations than the skiers outside of your team.” So what happens to all that camaraderie when the Olympic flame starts to fade? Well, they may have gone their separate ways this summer with André returning to his new home of Monaco, Maria yacht racing in Stockholm and Mattias taking time out to climb in Switzerland, but the three Swedes will soon reunite to further hone their skills together for the upcoming season and in preparation for the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, too. But what keeps them all so passionate about a sport that requires almost year-round devotion? Maria sums it up best: “When I was young, I had a dream to be the world’s best skier. I still have that dream.”

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Matthew Reamer

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�he Scraper Bik� Movement is broadening horizon� for Oakland’� disaffected yout�, and it’s al� thanks t� on� man’s multicoloure� drea�. Words chloe roth Photography bryan derballa &matthew reamer

The fickle bank of fog that engulfs the Bay Area several times each day dissipates when you ride into East Oakland, California. The sun shines brightly above the city that takes the unfortunate bronze for the third highest crime rate in the United States. With fifty-two homicides since January alone, “a group of kids staying out of trouble and enjoying the sun” is a welcome sight to community members. These are the words of Tyrone Stevenson Jr., aka Baby Champ, founder of Original Scraper Bikes – the project that has fuelled the scraper bike movement. Nicknamed after his late father, a town boxing champion, the twenty-one-year-old is known throughout Oakland as the undisputed Scraper Bike King. Borrowing the name from the local ‘scraper car’ phenomenon, where late model American cars are customised with extra large rims and flashy paint jobs, scraper bike frames are also refitted with oversized wheels. Then the customisation really begins; with the spokes covered in spray-painted foil tape, then decorated with recycled materials like soda cans, cookie boxes, candy wrappers, and chip bags, each scraper bike is truly a work of art. “You can create something out of nothing and reinvent it,” Champ says. “And make it feel good – make you feel good.”

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Bryan Derballa

Original Scraper Bikes began with Champ’s own experience of getting into trouble as a young kid in East Oakland. Unable to afford a car and restricted from going out by his mom, Champ took to fixing bikes. The discovery that he could both entertain and express himself in this safe way was a revelation. “I know everybody’s gonna die one day,” Champ says. “But why die young?” Hoping to inspire other young people to change their lifestyles, Champ took scraper bikes to the streets. A few years down the line, he has emerged as a hometown hero and avoided the notoriety that would have trailed him had he chosen a different path. “I’ll take that bike and give it to another kid and tell him to fix it,” Champ points at an undecorated bike, donated by a community member, leaning against the fence in his bicycle-filled carport. On Saturdays kids from the neighborhood, sometimes as many as forty at a time, convene to ride with Champ, sending dozens of colourful pinwheels streaming through the troubled city’s streets. The roughly twenty-five members of what Champ calls “The Original Scraper Bike Team,” who range in age from seven to eighteen, must retain a 2.0 grade point average in school, keep a positive attitude, ride in a single-file line, and, to gain Champ’s highly sought-after approval, have the “cleanest bike out there.” Champ’s 2007 music video collaboration with Da Trunk Boiz, which garnered over three million views on YouTube, attracted the eyes of documentary filmmakers and journalists throughout the Bay Area. Due in part to this increased media attention, Champ and his team have since been asked to participate in

Bryan Derballa

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Bryan Derballa

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Bryan D erballa

countless community events, have landed sponsorship deals and educational grants, and were recently sponsored by the city to run a weeklong summer camp to teach bike safety skills and the art of scraper bike decoration. Other scraper crews have cropped up throughout Oakland and beyond, meeting up for large community rides like the one on Halloween, which was named official Scraper Bikes Day. On October 31, Champ leads bikers through a night ride from East to West Oakland on what could otherwise prove a dangerous holiday in the inner city. In this way, the Scraper Bike Movement integrates artistic creativity with the promotion of a safer, healthier, more positive lifestyle and brings the subject of sustainability, often relegated to privileged populations, to marginalised urban communities. In a city plagued by high childhood asthma rates, decreasing pollution by using bikes instead of cars for transportation empowers young Oakland residents to take an active stance on the things that matter to them. “Scraper bikes stand out,” Champ insists. “A bunch of youths standing up for what they want to see in the community. Either it’s, ‘Stop the violence,’ or, ‘Riding green for the Earth.’ Regardless of what the message is, the youth have the biggest impact.” In order to serve a larger number of kids than his house and limited resources can currently support, Champ’s goal is to open a local community centre with a mentoring programme and all-green technology. “I wanna see

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Bryan D erballa

scraper bikes being commercialised. I wanna go to every city in America – and possibly the world – and create what I’m doing in Oakland in other communities and make it just as big as it is out here.” But with high fees just to apply for non-profit status alone, the biggest challenge is funding. “It’s still a dream right now,” says Champ. Despite the funding obstacles, Champ’s positive attitude and pride in what he has accomplished is apparent the moment he begins to speak about scraper bikes. “A lot of kids don’t have anything to look forward to. They don’t have a clear vision of what they want to do in their future,” he explains. “That’s why scraper bikes is so important for me. It’s giving them something that’s outside of joining gangs, selling drugs, and doing the typical statistics things. Scraper bikes give them something to look forward to. It’s their time, creating their bicycle. They take it out and they’re proud of what they’ve made. That’s the joy of scraper bikes.” Follow Champ around for an hour and that sense of joy within the community is palpable. Navigating the streetlights he knows by heart, Champ rides effortlessly through town wearing his trademark sequined hat and blasting the latest Messy Marv from the car battery-operated speaker on the back of his three-wheeler. “I listen to music that’s going to have the community’s head bobbing,” Champ says, with a seemingly permanent smile on his face. “And create a party wherever I’m at.” And in that, he succeeds. Old ladies stop mid-conversation to dance in the street, kids hang from car windows to flag him down, and shouts ring out every few minutes of, “I see you, Champ!”

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Motivated by the reaction and accolades from the parents and families of kids who ride with him, Champ’s local celebrity has made him a role model and mentor for Oakland youth. The sister of a fourteen-year-old scraper bike team member sent Champ a MySpace message to say that her brother had declined an invitation from his friends to go for a ride in a stolen vehicle because he was working on his bike that night. Thanks to his dedication in preparing for a Saturday ride with Champ, the boy avoided a night that ended in a car crash. “All of them are intense,” Champ says of the many stories about scraper bike kids. “Oakland’s crazy. And that’s the community we live in every day. We’re used to seeing kids twelve and eight years old driving around in stolen cars, riding around with guns, selling weed and doing anything negative that’s available. Scraper bikes are an outlet to keep them away from all of it.” There are bleaker days, when kids don’t show up to ride and disappointing rumours about scraper bike team members reach Champ’s ears. On these days, questions about whether or not the movement will stand the test of time, or if Champ’s hopes of going global will come to fruition, are up for debate. But the dedication of at least one individual, the Scraper Bike King himself, is not. Though he plans to phase out his multicoloured collection of sparkly hats by the end of the year, Champ isn’t planning on going anywhere. “It’s something you can do any day,” he says of the scraper bike movement. “It’s gonna last forever.” To learn more about how to support the movement, visit: www.originalscraperbikes.blogspot.com


CODY TOWNSEND – SWATCH PROTEAM


�ur� �ntiquaria� Surfboar� collector Damio� Fuller i� enchante� by waveriding’s rainbow-coloure� pas�. W o r ds s h e l l e y j o n e s P HO T O G R A P HY t r e v o r k i n g

Australian surfer Simon Anderson revolutionised surfboard design in the mid-1980s when he introduced the three-fin thruster. The style was unbeatable in terms of performance and functionality and its popularity soared, with variations on the triptych popping up in surf shops, and competitions, across the world. But like all things, what is seen as innovative one day can all too quickly become the norm. And as the surfing industry began to churn out boards for the mass market, appreciation for innovative boards, like those from surfing’s past, started to dwindle. That is, until now. A new breed of vintage surfboard aficionados are connecting through cyberspace and sharing their love for a lost art. And an Australian dude called Damion Fuller is at the helm of the resurgence. “I think after ’85 you kind of had the birth of professionalism in surfing,” says Damion in drawn-out Aussie tones. “And from that point on surfers were just given free surfboards by companies and this need to innovate – for the surfer to feed straight back into the surfboard design – kind of immediately ceased. A lot of professional surfers today don’t even know how surfboards are built. So for me 1975 to 1985 is a really lovely period. It’s almost like when Picasso was first experimenting with sculpture, paint or cubism, pushing the envelope of the technique. From a surfing point of view, there was a break [after that period] of the craftsman-designer surfer, the waterman, the poet-warrior.” Damion indulges his love of vintage surfboard design through a rotating collection of about eighty boards, all of which he rides at some point. But after his wife got sick of him surf-waxing lyrical about twin fins and swallowtails he decided to start a blog, called Board Collector, and find some likeminded souls. “I just started putting my boards [online] and the spiderweb of people that I’ve met is amazing,” says the Bondi Beach-local affectionately. Inspired by the popularity of his blog, Damion decided to go one step further and set up a swap-meet where “music and art can mix with vintage and retro surfboards” in the car park of streetwear brand Deus Ex Machina, where he works part-time as a fashion designer. He explains: “The swap-meets began as a way to pull together all the

amazing people that I’ve met [through Board Collector]; from old hairy collectors with boards in their garages to designers who are interested in learning about the past. I wanted to pull all the people I’ve met in cyberspace into reality. And it’s growing bigger and better every time.” The events have been so successful, in fact, that Damion is transporting the idea to Perth and then Venice Beach, California. But is there something of the Luddite spirit in Damion and his band of antiquarian brothers who romanticise a by-gone era? “Definitely not,” says the forty-year-old. “I am one of those people who hates the ‘good old days’ mentality. When I collect boards, I am looking for unexplored innovations that were overlooked. For example, the board that I ride now – a 1978 sky twin fin shaped by Bob McTavish [a pioneering Australian shortboard shaper] – is the best board I’ve ever surfed . So I contacted Bob and his son told me that Kelly Slater is riding a similar shaped board at Pipeline today… Which is nice for me because it proves I’m not crazy or trapped in a time warp. It proves that these things are worth revisiting… So no, this is not looking back. This is looking for breakthroughs that were overlooked when boards became very standardised.” And it’s not just the shape and functionality of the boards that’s got Damion hooked. “That [innovative] period of design was really graphically interesting with a lot of use of colour and fluoro. To me, these surfboards are wonderful pieces of applied art. They’re handmade and they’re beautifully painted and yet they still have a wonderful function too.” So what happened to those rainbow-coloured boards of yesteryear – and why do boards today seem so bland in comparison? “Ah, the lost art of the airbrush,” sighs Damion. “It’s not common anymore because it’s expensive and that’s really sad. I guess it’s like Macramé; one of those skills that was really popular for a period and then quickly dies out. But it makes those boards even more attractive, more collectible for me.” And with more projects in the pipeline, including a collaboration with the Australian National Maritime Museum, Damion is ensuring these beautiful design anomalies go down in surfboard history


�hen spring arrive� i� Indi�, th� street� erup� i� � technicolou� mess an� class divide� ar� momentaril� erase�. Behold th� festiva� of Holi, a vibran� spectacl� roote� in age-old traditio�, where colou� is th� key t� unit�. Words monisha rajesh PhotograpHY jitendra singh

t’s early morning in the peaceful North Indian town of Orchha and the only sound is the bells of the Hanuman Temple ringing rapidly in the distance. Just below a small balcony that juts out over the dusty main street, stall-owners are settling down cross-legged before miniature pyramids of vibrant powders, as though a large chemistry experiment is about to take place. A puff of sky blue powder shoots up suddenly from below the balcony like a small mushroom cloud and shrieks of laughter break the silence as a group of Smurflike teenagers grapple at one another, reaching out to smear handfuls of turquoise powder over each other’s faces and hair. Wriggling away as a sheet of yellow spray comes flying out from behind a wall, two young girls dart across the street splashed like rainbows with giant white grins. And so begins the festival of Holi and the welcoming in of spring. Despite its Hindu origins, Holi is deemed one of the more secular festivals in India. Its raucous and relaxed nature appeals to every faith, culture, class and caste and it’s impossible not to be sucked into the tornado of colour and noise.

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If you find yourself in India during Holi don’t be surprised, least not offended, if precariously balanced teenagers zoom past on Bajaj mopeds, hurling water balloons or wielding giant syringes (pichkaris) full of lurid coloured water called gulal – it’s all part of the coming together of communities and the embodiment of unity. Once drenched from head to toe in bright blues, hot pinks, eggyolk yellows and parrot greens, no one can tell Dolce & Gabbana from a cotton dhoti, skin colour is unified and everyone blends into one heaving mess of celebration. At least, that is the theory. Holi is singled out as the one time of year when members of every community can mix freely with each other, pursue unharnessed fun and lay aside caste, creed and class. However, whether this is currently put into practice is open to debate. Although the middle and upper-classes may offer gifts and sweets to staff and members of the lower castes, status is still a matter of pride in India and many Indians are largely unwilling to blur distinctions, preferring to stick to their own social groups. The likelihood of a housekeeper being permitted to rub pink powder into the hair of their employers may be barely imaginable in upper-class households, but out on the streets, communal commotion is readily accepted. raditionally, Holi celebrations provided farmers with the opportunity to give thanks for abundant harvests and to mark the beginning of warm days and new life – particularly in the north of India where seasons are much more defined and low temperatures, frosts and winds visibly give way to burning sunshine and humidity. The different coloured waters symbolise the new colours that accompany the arrival of spring: yellow and orange reflect the blazing sunshine; pink mirrors the new blossoms bundled on branches; blue depicts the clear skies; and green symbolises the growth of new plants and trees. To give thanks for their prosperity, farmers today still whisk the top off their first crop

as an offering to Agni Devta, the fire-god, but the origins of Holi – like many Indian festivals – vary in mythology; grandmothers adding masala to their homespun version of events and priests embellishing religious threads for their own ends, make it hard to trace the origins of the festival back to solid roots, but the most popular legend among many is the tale of Holika. Holika was the sister of Hiranyakashipu, a cruel demon king who decided on a whim that he wanted his subjects to stop worshipping Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of protection, and to begin worshipping him instead. However, his young son Prahlad refused to do so and continued to worship Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried in earnest to kill his son, but Vishnu saved him every time. Enter stage left, evil sister. Holika, blessed with the ability to remain unscathed by fire, followed her brother’s wishes and carried young Prahlad through the flames to his awaiting death. However, Holika’s invincibility ended right there and she was burnt to ashes, while Lord Vishnu, living up to his name, ensured that Prahlad remained unharmed. In celebration of the victory of good over evil, Holi revellers light huge bonfires – fuelled with dried cow dung, ghee, honey and a token of crops from the new harvest – to reenact the burning of the evil Holika. In certain parts of India, the ash from the extinguished fire is applied to the foreheads of everyone gathered, and the remainder is kept on a small altar at home throughout the following year as a remedy to ward off any uninvited evil. In addition to the religious and spiritual aspects of the festival, Holi was also considered an auspicious time to take health issues into consideration. Springtime, during which the weather changes, is believed to cause viral fevers and colds, so the coloured powders were homemade from green Neem – a tree thought to heal over forty diseases – yellow turmeric considered to be a soothing agent, and red kumkum made from saffron, also believed to have strong Ayurvedic medicinal qualities for alleviating asthma and skin diseases. The colours, when thrown over the body and absorbed by the skin, were thought to offer plenty of benefits. For those with little or no money, boiling beetroot, drying crushed petals of marigolds, and grinding spinach and mint in hot water made for quick and cheap gulal.

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s time goes on, traditions are often adapted to suit current circumstances, and Holi is not alone for the way in which its traditions have been manipulated – and not always for good. Rumour has it that, to increase profits, some manufacturers of gulal powders have been cutting their products with diesel, engine oil and copper sulphate, and adding glass powder to give the colours a bright sheen. Most of these chemicals cause a combination of nausea, headaches, allergic reactions and respiratory problems that can prove extremely harmful in the long term. Following an increase in recent years in hospital visits for conjunctivitis and caustic burns, laboratory tests were conducted to investigate the cause of the flurry of skin and eye irritations, the results of which found the presence of chemicals in the powders, including copper sulfide to enhance green and lead oxide in black. To hit back against the brazen disregard for the spiritual traditions of the festival, national newspapers such as the Indian Express and news magazines like Outlook ran numerous articles this year in the run-up to Holi to forewarn revellers of the dangers surrounding their beloved festival. Primetime television channels ran adverts featuring Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone slicking Parachute coconut oil over her swishing mane, before striding out into a crowd of young people flinging powders in slow-motion. Each wears a shower cap and looks on in horror as she proudly swings around her hair before revealing that she has covered it in coconut oil to protect the hair shafts from chemical damage. Recent campaigns have been asking people to return to tradition and make powders at home using vegetable and fruit dyes. Earlier this year, a string of articles popped up online recommending colourful flowers and spices, and tiny adverts flashed alternative methods for making gulal. And in the Tihar jail, on the outskirts of New Delhi, a group of twenty female inmates aged between thirty and forty were given herbal raw materials, such as marigolds and turmeric, and

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left to make dry colours which were then sold in the capital. “We have used arrowroot powder and flower petals along with food grade colour and natural fragrances to make colours that are purely skin friendly and even edible,” Vishalanand, a spokesperson for an NGO that has been working with the inmates for over fifteen years, told India’s Deccan Herald newspaper. “Making colours in the women’s ward of the prison is an attempt to provide inmates with some source of income… Inmates who are given training to make the colours are commissioned to produce 10,000 packets of purely herbal dry colour.” The powders were regulated to international standards and all proceeds from sales went into the Prisoners’ Welfare Fund. As with most Indian festivals, there is no fixed way of celebrating Holi, and wherever you are in India, each community will add their own touch to the general merriment. The Sikh community, renowned for their boisterous partying, celebrate with their own version called Hola Mohalla, which loosely translates as ‘mock fight’ and is celebrated one day after Holi. Rather than playing with coloured powder, they engage in simulated battles with real weapons, ride bareback astride two horses and display various forms of bravery as a reminder of how they once had to fight off attacks from the Mughal Empire. In Maharashtra state, residents in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur celebrate Rangpanchami, which comes five days after Holi. Fishermen celebrate the festival with singing and dancing, devoting their attentions towards Samudra-Raja, the sea-god, who in essence is the one who blesses their ‘harvest’. In Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat in the west of India, a clay pot filled with buttermilk is hung high on a street beyond the reach of young boys who try and get to it by making human pyramids. While they try in vain, young girls attempt to stop them by throwing coloured water on them to mimic the pranks of Lord Krishna, famous for his mischievous nature. He who eventually smashes the pot is crowned the Holi King and presumably rises in the esteem of the young ladies marvelling from below. However you choose to mark Holi – by walking through fire, fighting with swords or flinging water balloons – the beauty of the festival lies within its free abandon, the eternal triumph of good over evil and the simple act of coming together in messy, but joyful celebration


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�ritain’� number on� female skie� �hemmy Alcot� refuses to sto� giving i� everything she’� go�. Words ed andrews P h o t o g r ap h y s a m c h r i s t m a s

“I don’t want to be one of those people from a small country just racing because they can. I do it because I’m competitive,” says Chemmy Alcott, impassioned by the thought of stepping up to train for another Winter Olympics. Chemmy Alcott wants to win. There’s no getting away from it. The twenty-eight-year-old skier and British number one has a cupboard full of silverware that corroborate this fact. So when it was time to head to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and with a top ten world ranking under her belt, Chemmy had her sights set firmly on one thing: returning from Canada with an Olympic medal in hand. But fate had other plans. Her four year preparation for “the be all and end all of an athlete’s career” had been beset with the kind of personal trials that would steer most people off course, including the death of her mother in 2006. Then, on top of a broken ankle that saw her sitting out three months of the 2008/09 season, Chemmy was dealt a financial blow when Britain’s ski governing body, Snowsports GB, went into administration just weeks before the opening ceremony. As the bulwark of Chemmy’s Olympic dream, the organisation’s collapse left the skier high and dry without financial support. With bad weather and poor snow conditions topping

things off, Chemmy’s dogged determination was put to the ultimate test. “It was a hugely high-pressure situation,” she says very matter-of-factly. “[The Whistler course] was unforgiving to anyone not feeling one hundred per cent confident.” Chemmy didn’t podium in the five events she entered but did come a respectable thirteenth in the downhill, describing her performance as some of her “best skiing for a long time.” Chemmy’s skiing journey began on family holidays she took as a child to France. With three older brothers, she had no choice but to try and keep up with them on the slopes. “You are always driven by your siblings and having three brothers made me less girly and ready to attack,” says Chemmy. This willingness to attack and need to compete meant Chemmy was ski racing by the age of eight but, hailing from a country where snowy peaks are few and far between, the young athlete had to travel in order to pursue her dream of racing professionally and soon she was spending every summer of her adolescence training in New Zealand. “My parents must have got a lot of stick for it but they let me follow my dreams,” she says. “It’s not for everyone but I really enjoyed it and it made me very independent.” Chemmy’s tireless commitment paid off and, in 2001, she claimed her first two gold medals in slalom

and giant slalom in the junior category of the British Land National Ski Championships. Just six years later she made history as the first British female to qualify for a World Cup Final in 2007. Add to that three Olympic Games and a career-best world ranking of eighth in combined and you start to get a picture of how much Chemmy has achieved. Ski racing at this professional level requires near constant improvement, with racer and coach analysing runs in precise detail and fine-tuning body positioning and equipment to shave vital milliseconds off finishing times. But despite everything she learns from the world’s top coaches, Chemmy still puts a lot of faith in her own intuition. “I’m very much an instinct person, I go on what I feel and am not over analytical,” she says. Chemmy is currently looking for a world-class training programme that will prepare her, over the next four years, for one last shot at Olympic gold before she retires. But when a goal like that means a summer ‘break’ consists of up to five hours in the gym, is there a part of Chemmy that yearns for a less intense pace of life? “Sometimes you just want to be normal,” she concedes. “But there are benefits to the sacrifices we make. It’s well worth it when you have that great run and feel amazing because you’ve done yourself and your team proud.”

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�ro� subtl� t� sublim� �olfgang �loch i� imbuing surf ar� with � sophisticate� palett� of mute� tone�. Words Dan Crockett Artwork Wolfgang Bloch

Capturing the essence of surfing and nature through any medium is a challenge, whether you’re armed with a paintbrush or the written word. And though surf art has been flourishing recently, with more and more waveriders moved to express the indescribable, it has also been stymied by a weary aesthetic. This picture-perfect pandanus-fringed vision, rendered in saturated tones that appear almost hyperreal, was perfected by John Severson and Christian Riese Lassen and has been bastardised ever since. But what about our less explosive dalliances with Mother Nature; those muted moments when an impending grey sky is more beautiful and real than its crystal blue ideal? How can we capture these subtle but all-important human experiences? Enter Wolfgang Bloch, an Ecuadorian artist whose chosen aesthetic whispers to all those hypnotised by the living ocean and the natural earth.    Wolfgang sees himself “as an artist that also happens to surf and not the other way around.” His awe lies with nature itself rather than the physical act of riding waves. He explains: “The ocean is the inspiration and essence of my work. That constant physical and visual movement fascinates me. It’s beautiful, powerful, quiet, mesmerising and grand.” Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Wolfgang experienced the verdant diversity of that coast as he was growing up. And the brilliance of colour, gleaned from a childhood spent driving and camping throughout Ecuador, leaks into his work to this day. His memories are vivid and at the core of that vision is the quiet of an empty beach. In Wolfgang’s work the human is irrelevant. His line-ups are mysterious places with no surfer flock fussing over the sets. This element of mystery – surf art stripped of the surfer himself – prompted Laguna Art Museum director Bolton Colburn to call Wolfgang’s work, “sublime and terribly romantic.” However, to confine Wolfgang to the surfing spectrum would be an unnecessary limitation. Those who come to his work, come from all walks of life. And what the artist hopes to convey in the picture is not necessarily what his surfing audience first sees: “Surfers connect with my work immediately – they see the wave and, like you said, imagine that perfect spot… For me it’s different – I love looking at the ocean for many reasons, not just for waves.”

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Wolfgang is famous for combining mixed media to convey an expressionist vision, full of mystery and intrigue, rather than trying to mimeograph what he sees. Eschewing the stereotypical sun-swamped scenes associated with surf art, Wolfgang focuses on a unique palette and texture that are all his own. Often the wave is represented as a single crest, bisecting the canvas in a subtle but brilliant clash between land and air. It is into this intangible realm that the viewer plunges, the ultimate imaginary shoreline almost revealed. As surfers we are dreamers and it is to these dreams that the artist calls, an allusion to the powerful spiritual reward that a life spent chasing waves provides. For Wolfgang, it has always been about the experience as a whole. Surf writer Brad Melekian summed up Wolfgang’s work with the following: “One look at his paintings and it’s apparent that Bloch has an inherent filter to block out the unnecessary and accentuate the essential. It’s through the practice of such selective inclusion that Bloch has cultivated a refined style of painting that is entirely unique – yielding pieces that highlight simplicity and perfection while simultaneously evoking a thoughtfulness that is rare in surf artistry. Wolfgang works with mixed media, constantly evolving along with his work. He creates a work of art that is at once inspiring, emotional, authentic, complex and simple.” The surfing world and the art world at large have taken note. Wolfgang exhibits in galleries throughout the world and, based in California, he is undoubtedly a part of the recent renaissance in surf art and culture, yet he stands alone in his approach and technique. Along with a handful of other individuals, his art is not something that has to be purely enjoyed by those that surf – it speaks to a wider audience about what it means to be devoted to and intrigued by nature. Perhaps Wolfgang, in his own words, expresses this best: “I don’t title any of my pieces, I don’t like to say much about them either, I want to leave it open for interpretation. Let the viewers see what they want to see.” At fortyseven, Wolfgang is showing no sign of slowing down soon, and his constantly evolving aesthetic looks set to remain a joy to behold   www.wolfgangbloch.com


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or the past twenty-odd years, a collection of Super8 film cartridges have been left to sit and gather dust at the back of a drawer belonging to filmmaker Tamra Davis. But they are not any old home videos. In fact, Tamra’s tapes contain intimate footage of one of the most influential and tragic artists of the last thirty years: Jean-Michel Basquiat. Tamra had been playfully documenting JeanMichel as their friendship blossomed in the 1980s, but when he died from a heroin overdose, aged twenty-seven, the significance of her footage soared. And yet, unable to come to terms with the loss of her friend, she hid the tapes away. Then, a couple of years ago, she dug them up again and the seeds for her new film, JeanMichel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, were sown. But why now? And why at all? Well, the forty-eight-year-old is determined to set the record straight and let the voice of Jean-

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Michel, too often eclipsed by salacious gossip, do the talking for once. His story may be a warning, but it is also an inspirational example of a talent that overcame prejudice to reach the upper echelons of fame and success. The result of which is sadly apparent in his absence. When did you first meet Jean-Michel and what were your first impressions? I met Jean-Michel through a mutual friend and we bonded immediately over movies because I was going to film school and he was interested in cinema… He was so gorgeous. When he walked into a room everyone would spin their heads to look at him. He just had such an amazing style and swagger and was so different to anyone I’d met before… He held his head up high and looked like he was heading somewhere; it was a unique direction.


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He became pretty famous in the ’80s when he collaborated with Andy Warhol and dated Madonna. But what did you know about him before you met? Nothing really. I knew he was coming into town to do his first show at the Larry Gagosian Gallery… But I didn’t even know he did graffiti or that he was SAMO [the tag name he wrote under as a graffiti artist]… I don’t think I found out till much later actually. So the film is a bit of an art history lesson in that sense because I feel that in order to understand him you need to know where he came from. When did you start shooting him? Immediately after we met. I always carried around a Super8 camera and when we were hanging out one day he said, ‘Oh you should make a movie about me’… So I would go into the studio and film him while he painted… It wasn’t like, ‘Oh you have to film me painting this masterpiece,’ it was more about documentation Why haven’t you used the footage until now? A combination of reasons. When he died, I was incredibly sad and I just felt that this footage was too emotional. Why would you make a film about your friend that has just died? I didn’t know what the story was… Also the last time I saw him, right before he died, he was very upset. He felt like a lot of his friends he’d given gifts to had taken them and sold them and [devalued their friendship]. And so I kind of felt that the footage of him was like that and I didn’t want him to feel, even dead, that I was out to profit from it… It wasn’t until later

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when Brooklyn Museum had their [Basquiat] show and the MOCA [Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles] retrospective happened that I realised how important the footage is. Did you want to set the record straight about some things? Yes. Myths will be debunked in the film – like the thing about him being a graffiti artist street kid who woke up in a box in Times Square or an idiot savant wild child who was locked in a basement while his dealer threw him drugs. Because the Jean-Michel I knew was even more fantastic and emotional than that… And I wanted to make a movie that focused on the art and what he was trying to convey in his paintings. Do you feel his art is still relevant? I feel his art is more relevant now than ever. When he was alive he became such a celebrity that people didn’t really talk about the art so much, they talked about what club he’d been to or the fact that he was on MTV. And I feel like now people are really able to look at the art and the discussion can become more about the painting. You can see how ahead of his time he was… It’s like now I can say, ‘Wow punk rock was really important, it was a movement.’ You can see it more in retrospect. What makes his art so special? I think so many things make him influential – his use of colour for one. He was really an innovator in taking influences from the past, like the art of Leonardo da Vinci or Dreyfuss or words from Darwin, and putting them

on the canvas to give you an idea of what was going on in his culture, in his world. Did you want to explore race and ethnicity in the film? Yes, it was so important to him. Not only how he had to personally deal with racism and how much it affected him and his work but also how he raised black consciousness and put so many references in his paintings… He used to get so upset if people would look at him odd or refuse to pick him up in a taxi or whatever… It was weird because he was so safe in certain environments but on the street he was just ‘another black guy’, and a cop might pull him over and search him. It happened in New York in the ’80s, which was a really tough time, but honestly it still happens here now. Do you feel he has paved the way for more ‘outsider’ artists? For sure, I don’t think you can go to an art college in America today and not find an area of people who are directly influenced by JeanMichel Basquiat. But I hope that people realise, after watching the film, that even though the media embraced him, the high-end art world rejected him. I feel like that’s an important message to any young artist. Just because you’re not appreciated or accepted at one moment in time, doesn’t mean you, and your art, won’t get there at some point Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, a film by Tamra Davis, is available on DVD through Art House Films at the end of October 2010. www.jean-michelbasquiattheradiantchild.com


blackcrows-skis.com

“Gentle, touching and gorgeously lensed, Rio Breaks meshes a heart-felt hymn to surf-love with a harsh tale of slum survival. It’s a beautifully bittersweet vision of growing pains on the rough side of Rio, intimately unpeeling favela life’s poverty, violence and angst while still shining with the fragile hopes and joys of childhood” Jonathan Crocker Little White Lies

skier en l’an 2011 www.factorytwentyfive.com | www.riobreaks.com


�orl� b� �tor� �reerid� mountain biking i� abou� to go globa�, an� Martin �öderström is leading th� charg�. Words Shelley Jones Photography Clint Martin

“The freeride mountain biking scene is moving in the right direction,” enthuses Sweden’s finest MTB export, Martin Söderström. He’s not kidding. It’s in the throes of a revolution. And the new empire takes the form of a world series. “The Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour [brings together] almost every freestyle mountain biking event there is,” explains the twenty-year-old. “And they’re rated differently, depending on how difficult and big the event is. So the bigger the competition the more points you get.” Citing the TTR World Snowboard Tour and surfing’s ASP World Tour as an inspiration, the new tour, organised by the non-profit Freeride Mountain Bike Association, hopes to give mountain biking the platform it deserves. “I think it’s good to have an organisation behind our sport, so it will be easier to make our voices heard and change the sport to how we want it to be,” says Martin. “We want to make the courses bigger and better to take a step away from the BMX scene. We have big bikes and we can jump big with them but you can’t make a bigger gap on a BMX jump. We need bigger transitions closer to the FMX scene.” Martin may love the podium – recently winning Big in Bavaria and scoring third at Crankworx Colorado – but he’s eager to open the sport up to others too. “I really hope more people get involved,” he says. “Another thing I’ve seen since the World Tour started is that everyone is really trying hard to do better and develop the sport in a way that I‘m really happy about. Maybe we can work the sport up and one day have it on the X Games. That would really bring the sport to the masses.” Truth is, Martin has always been keen to diversify. He excels in all disciplines – dirt, park, street and slopestyle – something he believes will stand him in good stead for the World Tour: “The courses this year have shown you really need all the different disciplines for so many different features.” And his recent foray into the ‘vlog’ world, a three-part video series entitled Man vs. Machine brought the skittish elements of BMX and skate videos into

a mountain biking context. “In every extreme sport video it’s usually just riding and music, and it gets kind of boring in the long run,” says Martin. “So we decided to do something a bit different with a kind of story behind it and some funny parts, so it’s more like a small movie.” Martin scored the nickname ‘The Machine’ from friends who couldn’t believe his near-perfect performance in every 2009 comp. And although his first idea for the ‘vlog’ was to prove himself in a series of challenges, the videos ended up telling a more personal story. “It’s good to do things [in mountain biking] around the lifestyle of people,” he concedes, “not just competitions all the time.” Man vs. Machine shows the hijinks of Martin and friends in California; from crazy technical tricks in Woodward West to almost doing the first MTB triple tailwhip on a small step-up in Aptos. A feat that prompts fellow pro Trond Hansen to exclaim: “I didn’t even know that was possible on a mountain bike!” But it’s more creative too, with night-time foot jam sessions and stomach-churning special effects that make it look like Martin has kicked the bucket. But one thing that is most definitely alive and well is the young Swede’s newfound love for California. “I really wanted to go to California, because it looked really sweet to get prepared out there for the season,” admits Martin. “The weather is so good! You can’t really ride anything in Sweden from October until May, so it’s very important that you can go away for a while and get some riding done… We don’t really have any good indoor spots in Sweden either.” While that may be true, Martin has no plans to emigrate across the pond full-time and when school starts in September he will be back in Sweden to give back to his local community. “I’m going to work as a teacher at a biking gymnasium, teaching kids how to do freestyle,” he says. “I think I can learn a whole lot myself from teaching others.” And thanks to guys like him, along with the advent of the World Tour, Martin can rest assured that his young apprentices will have a globally respected sport to get stuck into

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�hades o� �rejudic� Albinos in �anzania hav� long bee� shunned b� society, an� deemed a� differen� b� superstitiou� lor�. Bu� after � spat� of killings i� recent years, their pligh� has no� bee� brough� out int� the ligh�. TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY JACKIE DEWE MATHEWS

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“Albinos are human beings,” says Al Shaymaa J. Kwegyir. “People don’t call deaf and blind people names, but they do albinos – they call us ‘ghosts’ or ‘zeru zeru’, meaning nothing or nobody, like we don’t exist. There is no need to discriminate against us because of colour. It is just melanin that is missing, otherwise we are all the same.” If that sounds like the voice of an impassioned activist, it’s because it is. Al Shaymaa J. Kwegyir has been campaigning for rights on behalf of Tanzania’s albino population for years, and in 2008 her efforts were recognised by the President who appointed her a Member of Parliament. It was personal experience that mobilised Kwegyir to speak out, because Tanzanians with albinism – like her – face a life of prejudice as well as ill health. Albinism is a genetic condition causing a lack of melanin in the skin, eyes and hair. It is estimated to affect one in 3,000 people in Tanzania – seven times as many as in the West. Most forms of albinism result from the inheritance of recessive genes from both parents. And because albinistic offspring can be produced by two non-albinistic parents, many Tanzanians see the birth of a child with albinism as punishment for some wrongdoing in the past. Albino rights activist Josephat Torner explains: “If you have an albino in your family it means there is a curse.

Society thinks your family has a problem, coming from your mother or father.” Visibly marked out from their neighbours, the albino community are treated with superstition. “People believe we are like ghosts,” continues Torner. “They believe we can’t die, that we just disappear, because customs do not allow us to be buried outside, so people have never seen our funerals.” Such superstitions have led to albinism being associated with the ghostly and the demonic, and reports imply that albino babies were often killed at birth in the past. More recently, cases abound of children being hidden from the outside world by their families, considered to be a burden and not worth educating. Attitudes are improving in the cities where people are more accepting of difference, and people with albinism tend to feel safe amongst their neighbours and involved in urban society. But in rural areas a strong belief in witchcraft and a lack of education means negative attitudes towards them prevail. For Kwegyir, “The biggest problem is ignorance and lack of education about albinism.” Women have been particularly discriminated against. Children with albinism are often rejected by their fathers and women with albinism are rarely married, left to cope with offspring on their own by men unable to stand the stigma of being with

Opening page Ibrahim Issa Choela (twenty-nine) and his daughter Jueria (two). His wife – the mother of Jueria – ran away shortly after she gave birth. She could not handle the stigma of being with a person with albinism, and was afraid that if they had another child it could be an albino. Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Left Adolfu Tukano (twelve) always sits at the front of the class to help him see the black board. When he is not at school the head teacher looks after his glasses as they are too precious to lose. All people with albinism experience low vision. Adolfu and his sister Juliana (ten) are the only children with albinism at their school. Lugolofu Primary School, Mufindi District, Tanzania. Below Mwalimu Matimbwa (twenty) at the Albino United football team practice. The team practises daily after 4pm when the sun starts going down so they can be outdoors without worrying about their skin getting burnt. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Below Samuel Mluge (forty-nine) is an activist for albino rights, he is trying to change attitudes towards people with albinism and to stop the killing of albinos for witchdoctor medicine that has ravaged Tanzania over recent years. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Right Baraka Mpulule (fourteen) already has badly damaged skin and the unclean environment means his wounds don’t heal. As well as sun damage, his delicate skin is prone to infections and diseases if not taken care of. He is afraid to play with other children at school in case they are rough with him and they hurt his skin. Mapogoro Village, Iringa, Tanzania.

a woman with albinism or fathering a child with the condition. But the condition throws up more obstacles than social stigma alone. Most people with albinism are visually impaired and children often have difficulty seeing the black board at school. The lack of melanin in their retinas means light floods in unfiltered, making it hard for them to focus on an image. Previously, those that managed to persuade their parents to send them to school struggled with bullying and a lack of understanding from teachers about their condition. However, increasedawareness has led to children with albinism being offered a place at the front of the class and, where possible, being given resources such as glasses to help them keep up with their peers. Although numbers are small, there are people with albinism who have completed their education and gone on to do degrees. While in Tanzania I met a lawyer, a teacher, a pastor and an MP, all with albinism. Skin without pigmentation is ill equipped for the harsh equatorial sun in Tanzania and skin cancer is a constant threat. Improvements in medical research and access to screening and radiation treatment have narrowed the gap between the life expectancy of people with albinism (recorded at forty years old in the 1970s) and the general population.

However Tanzania is a large country and with only one specialist cancer institute in the largest city, Dar es Salaam, people with albinism in very remote areas cannot afford to make the journey and still die of skin cancer. Awareness about sun protection is spreading but sun-cream is unaffordable to the majority, and young girls with albinism, much like any teenager eager to fit in, are reluctant to cover up preferring to feel integrated with their dark-skinned friends. Jeff Luande, a cancer specialist at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute, understands all too well the risks and obstacles Tanzania’s albinos face: “Suncream works, but if you recommend it here, then you are recommending a very expensive item to be used for a lifetime, that is beyond the means of most people with albinism. Number one it is not cheap and number two it is not stocked in shops.” People with albinism are safest when the sun goes down and they desperately seek jobs indoors. But these coveted jobs are usually skilled, requiring an education that the majority don’t have. As Samuel Mluge, an albino activist and former head of the Tanzanian Albino Society, explains: “The few of us who are educated still have difficulty finding employment. Employers still don’t believe albinos can do a job properly.” Even with the history of ingrained prejudice


Left Nuru (five) with her father Bahati. Nuru is lucky because her parents are wealthy and can afford sun-cream and glasses and send her to a good school where she is looked after. They are very protective of her and she is always kept out of the sun. However the stigma is still there and Nuru’s father is worried about having another child in case it also has albinism. Mafinga, Iringa, Tanzania.

and suspicion towards people with albinism in mind, no Tanzanian could have predicted the events of the last two years. The ritual murders of almost sixty people (according to the officially recorded figures – real numbers are presumed much higher) with albinism, some as young as six months old, haveshocked a nation doing its best to move away from these antiquated attitudes. On top of the sixty dead, many more have been attacked with machetes and their limbs stolen while they are still alive. The body parts are wanted for use in witchdoctor medicine, where they are believed to bring wealth and success in business. Demand is said to come from businessmen and politicians as well as from fortune-seekers in the mining and fishing industries. A recent boom in these industries in the lake region in northern Tanzania has encouraged the desire to get rich quick, with people preferring to consult a witchdoctor rather than do a hard day’s work. “It’s all for wealth,” says Kwegyir of the killings, “but you have to work hard for wealth and not take shortcuts.” The killings have since spread to neighbouring countries, like Kenya, Uganda and Burundi, and an international market for albino body parts demanding as much as £100,000 for a complete ‘set’ is fuelling the attacks. “We are living like animals, people are hunting us down,” says Torner. “We are living like refugees. We don’t even trust our families as they could sell us like commodities. Sometimes people in the road call you ‘money’ or ‘a deal’. It is a shame [for] our country to see these killings going on.” Although the international media and the Tanzanian government have publicly condemned these crimes, an archaic and overly bureaucratic legal system means that of the two hundredplus suspects that have been arrested, only two convictions have been made with four men being sentenced to death. The killings have brought the plight of people with albinism out into the light and ordinary Tanzanians have rallied around them in support. Previously un-discussed cases of discrimination have been forced out into the open and albino activists who are marching, playing football and speaking out in public are giving their community a voice and recognition that they didn’t previously have Sightsavers International: www.sightsavers.org Action on Disability and Development: www.add.org.uk

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POC MAG 02  

POC Mag celebrates the people who take inspiration from the natural world that surrounds them – the artists, athletes and architects who cul...

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