Redefining the sesh through a spiritual sisiterhood designed to foster self-development and leadership skills, Skater Uktis are challenging the status quo in skateboarding.
Ukti, or Ukhti, meaning ‘my sister’ in Arabic, perfectly describes the unique nature of the all-female Muslim crew originating in London, and now operating in 13+ countries where the goal is to provide a close-knit community on a global scale through regular meet-ups, weekly halaqahs (or ‘spiritual sesh’s’), and more.
We caught up with one of the crew’s representatives to find out more in their own words:
Right, let’s get into it, what was the original inspiration for Skater Uktis? The initiative is so holistic in the way it combines skating with your spiritual sesh’s, while encouraging your branches to get involved with cultural and community projects, so where did that come from?
Essentially it started because we identified the gap in the skate scene, as you know it is quite male-dominated. The skate scene, and any sport scene as a matter of fact, tend to be male dominated, and we also saw that a lot of Muslim women were interested in skating, us lot (the head team) included not just the members. We were all interested in skating but we felt that imposter syndrome when it came to the scene because, you know how it is – it can feel hostile, especially as a beginner, and a Muslim woman, so I guess it was kind of to create that space where they (female Muslims) feel comfortable skating and practicing what they enjoy.
Our two main aims are develop our faith, and to develop as skaters. I know a lot of people might be wondering how the hell to these two go hand in hand, but both of them have a level of self-awareness and personal development, and essentially these are the skills needed to nurture leadership qualities. When you’re on a skateboard for the first time, and you’re always failing and falling you start to become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and are able to acknowledge them and how you can become better, so you’re nurturing yourself the same way you nurture your leadership qualities through failure.
That actually ties in really nicely with my next question, because you mentioned one of your main goals is to empower female Muslims both spiritually and personally in a leadership capacity, so how do you think skating specifically helps you with that over any other sport or activity?
The personal development through self-awareness thing is definitely part of it. And spirituality, when you’re on that journey to gaining more spiritual knowledge, and confronting yourself on a spiritual basis it does take a lot of courage. It takes resilience, it takes a lot of perseverance. It’s a lot of trying to acknowledge yourself, and not letting external opinions impact the way you go about that process of spiritual development. So it takes a lot of resilience in that sense. It’s similar with skating as well – when you’re in the scene it takes a lot of courage to not let those external opinions – all those judgements on being a beginner, or how you’re skating, or how you go about it – impact your progress.
Yeah I definitely know what you mean, because when you’re a beginner it’s hard enough to roll up to a skatepark and be the only girl there, but then when you’re a minority within that minority I can’t imagine what that’s like.
Exactly it’s mad. I actually don’t even remember the last time I went out and skated by myself, it’s always been with someone or as a group. It feels more empowering, but then it can get you into that mood of wanting to skate by yourself afterward and practice.
Also when you’re in a group I think it encourages you, I always end up trying stuff I wouldn’t normally try.
And its way easier to laugh at yourself, rather than in front of a load of strangers.
For sure. So, on the opposite end of what you just said, do you think there are aspects of your spiritual practice and religion that you can apply to your skating and the way you approach it?
Aside from the personal development aspect [mentioned above], I just like to see it as something we just enjoy doing. We just do what we love, and we’re also Muslim women. There’s not always a spiritual side to things, it’s just skating.
Skater Uktis started early last year just before the pandemic hit, and now have a global reach with ambassadors in several countries. Did you expect you’d expand as much as you have in such a short time and in a difficult year?
It definitely did come as a surprise, how much we’ve expanded in a year or so, but it was one of the main aims to expand globally. Wow ‘global expansion’ sounds so political (laughs). But yes it was one of our aims to reach different areas of the world, and honestly it’s been phenomenal. I would say it was expected but not this much, you know? It’s given us a chance to connect with a lot of sisters around the world with different languages and experiences, and brought us together to achieve our goals spiritually and in skating. It’s been really heart-warming to be honest.
You guys also have a comic strip, Digi Uktis. I had a look at them and they seem to discuss a bit of everything from general chat to commenting on real-time events, so where did the idea for that come from?
It was just to relate more to our audience, we realise we have a lot of non-Muslim followers as well as Muslims, so it’s a relatable thing for everyone to enjoy, and be educated as well. In the very first post for Digi Uktis the caption says the aim of them is to follow their lives and experiences as Muslim women, both relating to our team and in general, and following their lives with certain issues and topics that might impact them, whether this is what’s happened already or what’s happening now. It’s just another way to educate, and entertain in the process. It helps us be more creative as well because we have creative people in the team, so we said ‘listen, come through and utilise your skills’. It’s been really enjoyable to see the process.
That’s a really nice extra, because a lot of people would say that skating is creative in its own way, but I think it’s great that outside of skating you guys have another medium you can use to put forward your platform and reach out to explain what you’re all about.
It’s just about making it relatable for everyone, especially in a time where skating hasn’t always been accessible [throughout the pandemic]. I don’t know how long that’ll go on for, hopefully it’ll be soon that we can get back into skating as we were before, but for now we’re utilising the technology and means that we have.
Finally, what can we expect to see next from the sisterhood?
Just continuing our online initiatives, because they’ve been really helpful for a lot of people we’ve had a really good reception from the sisters within the team, the sisters outside. They’ve realised how much it’s had an impact on their spiritual growth and development so we’re going to continue.
Also, the different levels of skating we have within the team, we have some sisters who just come and skate for fun, and also those who are aspiring to go pro. So we have a real range and are trying to build toward helping each skater become better in their field so they can achieve their goals.
It is! That was literally what we were thinking when we were saying we wanted to expand on a global scale. It was a huge aspiration for us and to see it happening and unfold has been so – I can’t even explain because it was something that we thought would not be able to happen, but we tried to make the impossible possible, and it happened. So it’s definitely a big aspiration but we’re still going.
Photographs and artwork courtesy of Skater Uktis