this new zine captures the raw beauty of female skaters in south africa
Fresh from the launch of her brand new zine, we caught up with former Dutch pro-skater, Louisa Menke, to talk film, photography, and female empowerment.
I first met former Dutch pro-skater Louisa Menke just over a year ago when we were both in Johannesburg for the opening of Skateistan's new Skate School in South Africa. As a long time supporter of the charity, Louisa had come over as part of a film crew, who were making a documentary about women's rights in South Africa, through the lens of local female skaters.
As well as featuring heavily in the Get Used to It doc, a keen photographer, Louisa also ended up working on a beautiful series of portraits of local South African women, and their surroundings, offering an intimate view of the city which Louisa has now made into a zine, poetically titled: Colourful Hearts Filled With Rhythm and Rainbows No-one Can Dance The Way You Do.
I caught up with her at the Berlin premiere of the skating doc, which ended up doubling as her zine launch.
Can you tell us a bit about your zine, Colourful Hearts Filled With Rhythm and Rainbows No-one Can Dance the Way You Do. Although it doesn't contain many words, it seems to say a lot about the city.
I wanted to tell a story that meant something. Exploring the city, I was fascinated by all the buildings there; you could read so much about the history of the city from them. You saw houses that were fancy, but falling apart, highlighting the many problematic layers of class and wealth. People out there are living their day to day life, but the government is corrupt and there is this fucked up class system. The zine is an ode to a beautiful city, and the pictures are simply my observations.
Why did you decide to create a limited edition zine instead of something digital?
To me technology has evolved so quickly and people are only interested in things for ten seconds these days. So a friend and I started Forgotten Fanclubs because we want to tell stories, create art, make photos and put together something permanent. It's not just a digital file forever living on the internet, which no one really knows is there because there is so much other stuff out there. We create limited editions, to make them special. There is nothing more interesting than holding a product in your hands and I'm not talking about a fucking laptop or an iPhone, I am talking about a tangible photo or a real book, that is so genius…
Can you talk a bit about your experience making the Get Used to It documentary?
The crew basically just filmed me shooting pictures and skating around the city. They wanted to pay attention to the female skaters and I could be the bridge for that. We were at this exhibition at an old women's prison, where Nelson Mandela's wife was imprisoned. The exhibition was about the history of South Africa, but the real history. We went there for an afternoon and they had an art show there all about women's rights - how they'd evolved, and how they used to be. I saw one photo there that I was really attracted to, so I asked about it. The lady at the show said it was by her good friend, Gille de Vlieg, and that she lived 10 minutes away. She came over and I had to immediately interview her in front of cameras. I was hyped because -- how often does that happen? You see a picture you are inspired by and the photographer comes to say hello and you get to talk about that picture. She was very inspiring for her time, one of the first white female photographers or photographers to go up into the townships. She went in and got licensed to take photos in them which was punk rock for that time. She was standing for the cause - equality!
As a female skater, how easy was it to connect with other female skaters over there?
I always connect to other female skaters because it's never been a very equal sport. If you're a skater, in general, you look different, weird or funny… an outsider. So, skaters are more likely to talk to other skaters as they don't find them as scary. It's a great way to get pictures because people aren't intimidated, they let you in! I don't like to shoot pictures of people when they hate me, I actually like to talk with the people and get a vibe.
What was your lasting impression of Johannesburg ?
South Africa is a place I have always wanted to go. In South Africa they speak Afrikaans, which is similar to Dutch, so I understand 40% of the language. But I'm also half Algerian, but I was never raised there or as part of that culture. When I go to Algeria I can't relate to it as much as I did when I was in South Africa.
Did you expect that?
It was interesting to experience. It makes you realise the world is just one big mix of people, even though we still don't seem to accept that. I have never been accepted into one nationality. South Africa is very divided between white people and black people; the coloured people are the least lucky. I am white skinned, but as I am half Algerian, half Dutch, I would be considered coloured. To me that was very interesting to think where I am from and how I would fit in with a divided culture.