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Kanya Spani – Let’s get it!

Whether you meet him at a club or witness him on a skateboard, believe me, you will remember Kanya Spani. You don’t forget this kind of energy that easy. Although he had almost made himself completely forgotten that one time already. In his home country South Africa, he was a well-known pro, had interviews, covers, and sponsors. Then he moved to Germany and, all of a sudden, was just some local. He had to start all over again. But he’s fine with that. His biography has more than one reboot. No problem for Kanya. With the biggest smile he just yells, “Let’s get it!” and off he goes.

There was this one time I randomly ran across South African photographer [Karabo] Mooki at a kiosk in Cologne. I asked him what he’s doing there and he told me that he is at a friend’s wedding party. When I met you months later, it turned out that it was yours. What’s the story behind that?

Fuck, I knew that you’re gonna ask about that. I met this German girl in Cape Town a couple of years ago. We were thinking about me coming over here because she used to live in Cape Town with me. That was just the easiest way because of all the German bureaucracy. We got married in Sweden, and now I’m here.

"We got married in Sweden, and now I’m here."

Why in Sweden? 

It’s a lot easier there because there’s less paperwork. But it was super good too. We went for four days, sun was shining, some homies from South Africa who live in Sweden were there. She had all her friends and family come up. I enjoyed it, but it’s way in the past. It’s cool though that I can talk about it now because when we broke up, it was kinda odd to talk about it.

Was it a happy marriage though? 

At the beginning for sure, but people grow and eventually they grow apart. We just wanted different things basically.

Did you break up on equal terms?

I guess it was my idea. I just felt too young. It was a really big step and now it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Are you divorced now?

Technically, we’re still married, but we will get divorced in the future.

Did you plan to come to Europe before or did it randomly happen because you met this girl?

I for sure wanted to come here. I met a bunch of European dudes, like Louis Taubert, in Cape Town and always thought Europe’s the shit. In 2014, I came up here with a bunch of friends on visitor visas to see my girl and skate and so on. I came back during the summer 2015 and officially moved here in December of the same year.

How is the skate scene in South Africa? 

We have a skateboard mag called “Session”. The scene got better and better because of that mag because you could see what all the other people across the country were doing. But it’s still not on the map even though there are people who are really good. But no one even cares about Africa. Dudes are killing it, but they don’t have their time to shine. 

Are there good spots?

For sure, Johannesburg has good spots, Cape Town and Durban too.

Soloskatemagazin Kanya Interview Hardflip

Hardflip

Is skateboarding accepted by society or do you get busted a lot? 

It’s a lot gnarlier over there because the security guards don’t give a fuck. They’ll freak out and try to hit you or pepper-spray you. But that’s the thing: we don’t give a fuck too. We have the same attitude. In Europe, the security guys just tell you to leave and you still have a couple of tries to land the trick. They don’t do anything to you. In South Africa, they have batons and chase you down. Some even have guns, so you better get moving.

How’s the police?

Ah, just cops… They’re all corrupt and everything. If you have the money, you give them like hundred bucks and they let you off. If you get caught at a roadblock and you had a couple of beers or your license is expired and the cops stop you, you just kind of talk to them and they ask you what you got. They tell you where to put the money and you’re good. It kind of helps you and it helps them. You don’t really want to go to jail. 

South Africa has some infamous ghettos. I guess sometimes there are gnarly situations when you’re street skating.

It’s not as sketchy as people think. Of course, it’s in the ghetto, but people are still super nice – especially these days. If you go out there and skate, people are hyped. It’s something different and they think it’s cool. Basically, they are the last ones who give skaters shit because it’s something for the kids to do and it looks cool. If you go to the city and people know all about skating, it rather pisses them off. But it’s cool to skate in the ghettos.

"No one even cares about Africa."

Is South Africa, next to maybe Morocco, the leading country in Africa when it comes to skateboarding? 

Basically, yes. If you go to Mozambique, they are killing it too, but they don’t have a platform. But besides, if you go north, there’s basically nothing. Kenya has a skate scene coming up, they have a skatepark. And Tanzania’s coming up too.

Do you guys go on tours in Africa?

A couple of friends went to Mozambique. Actually, their spots are really good, it’s some unexplored gems. Otherwise, dudes haven been to Swaziland, but it’s hard to skate further up north since they hardly have any infrastructure and you can’t really skate on dirt roads.

You had the cover of Session mag, interviews, sponsors and then you moved over to Germany and basically had to start all over again. How do you feel about that? Because if you had been from Spain, people would’ve probably heard about you before.

That was a little kick in the face to be honest. When I first got here, I knew a couple of people, but it was super hard to work my way up from the bottom again. Photographers or filmers were like, “Who the fuck is this guy?” and didn’t get back to me till they saw me skate. So I had the skateboarding speak for itself. I have to keep working on it, trying to reach out to people. It was super hard to find people to skate here at first. But now, I’ve met a bunch of cool people.

Soloskatemagazin Kanya Interview5050

50-50

Our former intern Konstantin [Hehl] told me that he thinks that because you skate with the AONI gang, and they aren’t skating on your level, you’re limited to the spots they are able to skate and can’t shine like you could shine.

It’s always fun to mess around with them, but we pretty much stick to messing around and that’s it. For sure, it’s fun and cool and I don’t mind, but it would be sick to have dudes that really push me. But it’s the homies, all good.

By now, you’ve worked your way up, but your still in the strange situation that you are on Nike and Element South Africa while living here. So you’re kind of stuck in between. Who’s actually in charge of you?

Basically Vaughan [Baker] and Colin [Kennedy] from Nike helped me out a bunch. I’m super grateful for that because they still send me shoes. And Alex [Deron] from Element gave me a couple boards. But I’m on their SA team and they can’t keep on sending me boards from all the way down there. So I just try to come up on the Element Europe squad. The lack of exposure to the public makes it hard, but I’m trying for sure. The SA sponsors are still holding it down, but it’s basically just a name that I ride for, but I don’t get shit.

Another subject, you like to party, eh?

I knew this would come up. I for sure like to have a good time. I think everyone likes to party.

Some people like to party, some people love to party, and others are born to party.

Can I pick: “I like to party”?

I think you’re born to party. How’s partying in South Africa?

A lot different for sure. Because here people go out late. I don’t really like to party all night. Staying till four is fine, so I can at least still skate the next day. In South Africa, it’s wild though since everyone likes to dance. It’s way less dancy here, but you still have fun.

You’re pretty much a ladies’ man. What’s your secret to hooking up?

Just talk and be yourself. Tell a couple of jokes and you’ll feel if she’s into it. If she’s not, you move on.

So you’re doing well. The German girls like you?

It depends on the country for sure. But German girls are cool. However, Danish are the bomb. Danish, Swedes, and Polish.

Soloskatemagazin Kanya Kickflip Domherzmann

Kickflip

Any funny stories to tell?

Oh, come on… I can tell you about one at CPH Open 2017. I was out partying at the Meatpackers, it was raining really bad that day and some broad, all the way from fucking Leipzig, was up there because I met her at the Berlin Open.

She came there for you? That’s dedication!

Yeah, straight up. And then she was being all crazy, clinging all night, trying to be my girlfriend. I was like, “Hold up, this is not happening.” I told her that I’m going to the bathroom but ended up going to another bar where I met another girl. We danced a bit to hit it off and then we made out a little. I was like, “Hey, let’s get out of here,” but she was like, “Nah, nah, nah.” So I went outside and then some other broad was like, “Oh, what’s up, I‘ve seen you around.” I talked to her for a little bit till she said that we should get the fuck out of there, which sounded good. While we were riding out on our bikes, the chain falls off and it was one of the bikes where you can’t really get to the chain because it’s all covered. I didn’t know what the fuck to do and it was pouring while I was standing in the middle of the road. And then these dudes come up and I asked them for help and they just tried to smash the bike, throwing it around to break it open. Finally, they opened and fixed it. They did everything and I just watched. After they got done, we were on our way again… I don’t know, it’s not really a crazy story. I have so many in my head, but I’m trying to keep it PG-13.

"German girls are way more casual."

How are the German girls compared to the ones in South Africa? 

In South Africa, they want you to promise them everything. German girls are way more casual and a lot more open. But there are many of them in South Africa too.

Does it help over here that you are exotic to them?

For sure. I add a little flavor to the mix.

But there’s also another side to it. All over Europe, right-wing parties gain popularity. Do you ever get racist comments on the streets?

Some people have done some crazy shit for sure, but most don’t dare to say it to your face. I was riding my bike on the sidewalk the other day just to go to the store and some old guy followed me into the store and was like, “Hey motherfucker, you don’t ride your bike where we walk. This is not a fucking bike lane!” I was only riding on the sidewalk for two seconds and I was like, “Is it because I’m black?” And he just left. Whatever, man. But besides that, people are really nice.

But I heard that the police pulled you over and took your driver’s license.

A friend of mine from the Netherlands had a car and she wanted me to drive because I knew the way back to my place, but my license was expired. Seriously five minutes later I got pulled over. They checked the South African license without even noticing that it was expired. They asked me how long I’ve been here. It was like a year and a half after and they told me that I should’ve gotten a German one by now. I didn’t know that shit. They said, “Either we are going to take your driver’s license and everything is cool or you keep it and get a 100 € fine.” I was like, “Pff, take the fucking license because that thing is expired” which they still didn’t know.

Did the cops ever hustle you because they think that you’re dealing with drugs? 

No, but I get asked for weed and long papers all the time. I don’t smoke weed though.

Do they go like, “Yah, brotha, do you have some weed? Jah bless!” 

Oh my god dude, yes, all the time. [laughs] That’s the worst. Happens all the time, “Ey, yo! Rasta!” It’s kind of annoying.

You don’t listen to Bob Marley?

I don’t listen to reggae. Fuck that shit!

I heard that you’re losing some of your dreadlocks once in a while. 

Sometimes one is loose and people just pull it out, keep it, and frame it on the wall.

"I don’t listen to reggae. Fuck that shit!"

I read in the Session interview that you were in the wild for a month for some kind of initiation rite of the Xhosa culture. What’s that about? You go out in the wild, fight a lion, and then you’re a man? 

Oh, no man. Actually, it’s more crazier than that. But yeah, it’s basically your way of becoming a man in my culture. You get circumcised but not by the doctors but in the traditional way, like they have been doing hundreds of years ago. I’m actually not allowed to talk a lot about it that much, but that’s basically what you have to do. It’s just a mental fuck up really.

But what do you have to do in the wild? Do you go there all by yourself? Naked?

Kind of, you’re half-naked. You have like a blanket around your waist and knees and you are covered in white paint from head to toe.

Is there someone to help you?

There’s one older guy to look after you. Because during the first week, you chill in a little hut and you’re not allowed to go out. And you’re there for a month, but the first week, you can’t leave the hut. They bring you food, you chill and learn how to be a man. You make fires, hunt a little bit.

Kanya Spani Gap To Bs Lipslide@preisinger

Gap to Backside Lipslide

But you don’t have to fight any bigger animals or drink, like, a drugged tea or something like that? 

Fuck, no. 

So it’s like camping?

Not really like camping… More like extreme camping.

Did you feel different afterwards? Did you feel like a man?

That’s the thing. You definitely do after that because a lot of dudes die going through that shit.

They are dying from what?!

Just, like, the healing process. Because some dudes run away and die because the circumcision procedure was like not a hundred percent. There are a lot of complications. To come out of that thing alive is like…

What percentage is dying?

At least 30 percent.

30 percent are dying and they are still doing it to this day?!

Yeah, they are.

Isn’t it strange to be a teenager who’s into skating, into hip hop music, who has an iPhone and then you’re half-naked out in the wild?

That’s the thing.

"You get circumcised but not by the doctors but in the traditional way."

And you can’t say, “Fuck it, I don’t give a shit”? 

You can, but then your family is going to treat you like a kid forever and call you boy.

And that’s fully accepted in the community?

No, some people really go against it. That’s the thing. Other cultures are going crazy. But hey, it is what it is. It’s kind of fucked. I have changed after that for sure. But at least I had skateboarding on my mind to keep me busy. Otherwise, I would’ve been lost.

I read as well that you did a Vodacom commercial and you earned 40k, is that true? 

That’s how I came here the first time. I was part of an agency back in Cape Town and I got this commercial called “DJ Skateboard”. You should check out the clip on YouTube. 

It was on TV in South Africa?

Yeah, but I’m not really into all that commercial shit. I just did it because it was a bunch of money. It was crazy to do the ad. It was a super funny experience. You know all the crazy foods you get, people asking if I need anything, giving me fucking robes to wear, feeling like a star. And also girls calling your name, “Hey Kanya, blablabla.” Fuck, that celebrity shit was too much though. I didn’t really dig it, but it was fun.

Kanya Spani Kickflip Fs Boardslide@preisinger

Kickflip Frontside Boardslide

Did you do some more of that stuff?

I did a couple commercials… That’s just the easiest way to get cash. That’s how I came here all the time. Print ads, billboard ads, Coca Cola, Nokia, shit like that.

Why did you quit?

I’m not into it. You have to pose and all that shit and that’s just not for me, because I’m such a chill person. Being like that is just too awkward.

You’re also a web developer but don’t work as one – why?

I studied it and worked… But the office job and me… It wasn’t one, because I think about skating all the time. You know, I was watching skate videos when I should’ve been coding. And I also had the worst boss ever. It just sucked, so I quit that shit. A lot of potential for money, but I chose no money over a lot of money. I’d rather be broke and skate than fucking have a lot of money and don’t skate.

But you do work on the side, right?

I’m working in like a commissioning in Ehrenfeld. I don’t earn a lot, but it’s enough money to live.

So you’re planning to do that till you’re 40? Or are you trying to get your skateboard career going in Europe? 

Kind of that. At least trying to get something going. But I’ll see what happens this year and then I’m going to try to take it from there. I don’t want to be the flow dude forever.

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