Interview with RIWAZ KAZI

Interview with RIWAZ KAZI

We took a minute to catch up with Sydney skateboarder and very good pal of Smile + Wave, Riwaz Kazi.

Riwaz and I actually grew up pretty close to each other back in Sydney (about 5 minutes away), but there is about a 250 year age difference between us so a chance meeting back then never arose.

But here we are, cities apart sitting down to chat about skating, the BLM movement and how it is to grow up in Sydney with a shade of skin a bit different to others.

Riwaz Kali Ollie - photo by Cameron Markin

Riwaz Kazi Ollie - photo by Cameron Markin 

S+W: So I guess absolute chaos would be a great way to describe life at the moment. Especially in Melbourne right now. How has life been in Sydney for the last little bit?

RIWAZ: Yes I really feel for you guys in Melbourne having to deal with the second lockdown. Once our restrictions got lifted here in Sydney, I guess everyone has been easing into the ‘new’ normal. It’s been nice to be able to see my friends and go skate around the city again so I can’t complain.

But man, 2020 has been something different. I don’t know a single person that has not been affected by the events that have taken place this year. 


S + W: True, true, truuuue, which means there's no better time to reach out to a mate and just check in to see how they're coping. 

So on top of Covid-19 comes the thundering power of the Black Lives Matter movement. Something that resonates right up there for both you and I.

What’s the vibe amongst the younger generation, particularly the skaters in regards to this massive movement?

RIWAZ: I think our generation have really given ourselves permission to express rage, sadness and fear. Expressing those things has always been common in our sub culture of skateboarding since we have always had to deal with police, so I think it was very easy for us to get behind The BLM movement and show solidarity in that sense. People shared things on Instagram and attended protests, but hopefully everyone is educating themselves so that the momentum can continue.  


S + W: Yes! Momentum is a key word at this time.

You made a post not long ago describing some of the hard times you had to go through growing up all because of the colour of your skin. Obviously, racists are still out there in big numbers (yuck), but have you seen much progress in regards to racism in the Sydney skateboard community?

RIWAZ: Normally I am not one to voice my political/personal opinions on social media but its been such a powerful movement that I had a lot of emotion built up. Particularly reading stories from people of colour that I look up to, and my friends. It really made me evaluate my past racial experiences instead of sweeping it under the rug like I usually would. It was quite liberating actually!

To be honest most of my experiences with racism were outside the skateboarding bubble. I think our community as a whole is generally very inclusive of race and it has always been a safe space for me not to be judged based on skin colour. That being said, this is a time to self evaluate, unlearn and learn (even for myself). You gotta ask yourself, “how have I acted previously? Is this appropriate? And how can I better myself?”
I can’t speak for the whole scene, but the people I surround my self with have made the effort to have acknowledge mistakes and privilege, listen to other people’s opinions and attempt to better themselves. 


S + W: That's it, everyone needs to stop and think about what they can do better in the future. But the most important part of that is not only thinking it, but actually doing it. That's where the road block kicks in for most people unfortunately.
Can you suggest anything the skateboard community can do or do better to make sure it’s more inclusive of all types of people whether it’s race, gender, sexuality etc?


RIWAZ: There has been progression but I think we have a long way to go! As I mentioned before, I feel like we have been inclusive of race. But gender and sexuality? We are not quite there. I think we need to stop projecting our opinions or perceptions of the experiences of others, and instead listen/learn from an existence we can not relate to. Particularly if you are a skateboarder that is male and straight.


Riwaz Kali 5050 by Cameron Markin

Riwaz Kazi 5050 - photo by Cameron Markin

 S + W: We've seen you film some amazing skate clips over the past year or so. Can we expect some exciting things from you in the near/post Covid future (whenever the heck that might be)?

RIWAZ: I have been working on a skate part for my friend Cameron Fraser’s full length. It’s VX and 16mm so hopefully it’s going to be a classic. This video was meant to premiere a few months ago at the Passport Store in Sydney, but unfortunately it got postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The silver lining is that we have had more time to film and really refine things. At this stage of my life, I have become a big advocate for refining. Learning new tricks is the best feeling but I think there is an art to refining what you already know, like taking an existing trick and presenting it in a different way. Or maybe that’s just an excuse as I am getting older....who knows. 


S + W:  And I’ve seen you and your girlfriend Gem have started up a little accessories company, tell us more about that and what’s planned for it?

RIWAZ: Yes I’m very excited for this but don’t want to reveal too much as we are still working out the logistics. Gem is a very talented sewer and I have some what of a ‘fetish’ for fine fabrics.

During the lockdown we made a few tote/drawstring bags and sold them via Instagram. It has been quite successful so far so I guess we just want to take it to the next level. Working with her has been lovely but I also worry that she is going to kill me from all the annoying questions I have about fabrics and the production of things haha. Anyways, just stay tuned for a future announcement.


S + W: Nice, and speaking of a fine fabric fetish, tell me about this new graphics based Instagram page I've seen pop up.

RIWAZ: I am no expert but I do have some basic graphic design knowledge. Over the years I have dabbled and attempted to further this every now and then. I kind of go through periods of inspiration where I'm very motivated to do something creative.

Most of the work on that page started at the beginning of lockdown as I needed some sort of outlet to keep myself occupied. I usually just go through Pinterest, see things I like and attempt to recreate them in my own style using Illustrator and Photoshop. Themes like music, nostalgic cartoons, whales and other animals are my usual go-to’s for inspiration. Would love to continue this stuff into the future but for now I am just enjoying learning and creating. 


'Jungle boogie' - by @finefabricfetish


S + W: Maybe we'll see one of them on a Smile + Wave tee one day!

Riwaz, thanks so much for the chat, keep doing what you're doing and we can't wait to see what, maybe not this year, I'm cancelling the rest of this year! But maybe what next year has in stall for you.


See all about Riwaz here on his Instagram page - @riwazhere
And all his beaut designs at - @finefabricfetish
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