Faithful to the feminine movement, Berlin based roller skater Oumi Janta throws the doors of skating wide open. Ever since the first time a pool was emptied and skated, skating has generally been a space reserved for men only. But Oumi Janta portrays a distinct intensity as she gifts her audience with raucous energy and amplified dance gestures. We have a chat with her about her mutual love/ hate relationship with Berlin and the liberating process of incorporating dance into her skating.
The Beyond Club Culture photography series is an ongoing project by sustainable fashion brand, The Black Market. By exploring the diverse plethora of talent that lurks extrinsic to Berlin’s infamous club presence, we meet Berliners in daytime mode and chat about how they’ve honed in on their art form and the role Berlin has played during their metamorphosis.
KALTBLUT: Hey Oumi, can you tell us about your art form? Oumi: I am a creative director and roller skater.
KALTBLUT: What sparked your interest in roller skating? Oumi: I began roller skating around 5-6 years ago. I had heard about a roller skating school that was located in Hermannplatz called Huxley’s Neue Welt. I asked my friend to come with me and remember seeing and feeling so much energy around me. Since then I was hooked on roller skating and couldn’t stop. And here I am today, still as hooked as day one and still skating.
KALTBLUT: Based off your Instagram videos, you incorporate a lot of dancing into your roller skating. Is that unique to your style? Oumi: I would describe my style as a blend of artistic roller skating with my personal dance style mixed in there. In the end, all I can say is I try to let my mind and body be free, embrace the moment and of course have as much fun as I can while doing it.
KALTBLUT: It’s quite rare to meet someone who was raised in Berlin, like you. A lot of people tend to move here during their adult life. What do you think it is about Berlin that seems to magnetise creative people to this city? Oumi: I was actually born in Senegal but moved to Berlin when I was two months old so have no recollection of living in Senegal before that. My father was studying in Berlin and my parents refused to have a long-distance relationship so that’s why i’m here.
And I think Berlin seems to attract creative people to this city because there is a lot of space made available for them. Everyone is seeking a place where they can be themselves without judgment. In Berlin, you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want.
KALTBLUT: Even though you’ve grown up in Berlin, you haven’t chosen to move to other big cities around the world like London or New York. What’s the reason you’ve chosen to stay in this city after all these years? Oumi: I actually lived in Oslo 3 years ago and surprisingly didn’t want to move back to Berlin. I hated Berlin when I returned and painfully missed the silence. Berlin was the total opposite — loud and chaotic. I knew I would end up back in Berlin because this is where I can be my full creative potential self. The one thing I really like about living here is how non-judgmental everyone is. When you wake up in the morning (or afternoon), you can leave your apartment without putting on make-up or making much effort to dress up. You’re outside buying bread in just your leggings or whatever. In Oslo, you constantly had to look good. In Berlin, you have that freedom and fear from judgment.
KALTBLUT: You mentioned you wanted to stay in Oslo because it was quiet. How was the creative scene in comparison to Berlin? Oumi: The difference between people from Oslo and people from Berlin is crazy – the culture and way of thinking is so distinct. You go to Oslo for nature. Don’t even get me started on that. Norway is so big and all you have to do is travel just a little bit and you’re instantly isolated and far away from anyone. There are tall mountains that when you climb to the top, you can’t help but feel so small and insignificant.
KALTBLUT: Since you’ve been living in Berlin for nearly 28 years, how do you think Berlin has influenced your roller skating and creativity? Oumi: I can answer this question by referring to one particular location: Tempelhofer Feld – an abandoned airport from the 1930s. In summer there is a possibility for people like me to roller skate, but you will also find a lot of skateboarders, rollerbladers and more. It’s the perfect location for roller skaters because it’s super smooth and the view is beautiful. And this may not sound important but having this space in summer is really unique to Berlin. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to improve my skating as much.
KALTBLUT: When people read this, they may be asking themselves “I want to get into skating but it looks really difficult and I have no idea where to start.” What advice would you give them? Oumi: The biggest tip I can give someone who wants to start roller skating is: find yourself a community. It’s really vital because without it, you won’t know about all the events that are happening and how to improve. Plus it’s way more fun to dance with people, right? If you come to Tempelhofer Feld, there’s always someone with a big jukebox playing loud music – you’ll find us all there. We’re all dancing together and it feels so amazing. We have Facebook groups and Whats’app groups to keep us all in sync. The second piece of advice I can give is, if you’re looking to buy a pair of skates, please don’t buy those really cheap skates because they don’t last very long or are too dangerous for you to dance in. Invest in proper skates and I promise it will be worth it in the long run.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Interviewed by Lisa N’Paisan @lisa.kuro