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Best Books - A Closer Look: Kitintale

Kitintale by Yann Gross
 Kitintale by Yann Gross was one of the first books I cataloged for the Best Books feature, and it captured my interest right away. I was excited to see that we had a review copy of it the other day and was not disappointed with it.  The book is beautiful -- well laid out with very nicely reproduced images, despite being printed on newsprint.  The soft-textured cream colored newsprint adds to the overall feel of the book -- the images themselves are both saturated yet soft -- the general color palate reflects the hazy blue-gray sky and adobe colored earth of Kitintale. Without a staple binding, this book is a bit unruly to flip through when holding, but it's a book you'll want to sit down at a table with, closely inspecting each image before moving on.
The title comes from a working class suburb of Kampala, Uganda, the home of what is thought to be the first half-pipe in East Africa. In 2006, two kids began construction of the half-pipe, dodging the government taxes and regulations on buildings by telling officials that the "house" they were building was for crocodiles. Though the project baffled the neighbors, skateboarding took on, growing from a group of five kids sharing one board and skating barefoot to needing to enlarge the park to accommodate all the new skaters. With some support from a Canadian skateboarder, they formed the Uganda Skateboard Union and found the materials to expand their park.
From Kitintale
 Beginning with an introduction explaining the circumstances of the park's creation, Kitintale's opening images set the tone for the book by showing the town from a distance. It appears to be a sleepy place, like most suburbs.  The buildings lay low to the ground surrounded by rich grasses, red dirt roads cut across the green.  A group of men play soccer. These images are followed by a shot of the skate park, fenced, but clearly not impervious to goats who are chomping at the grass around the ramps. 

From Kitintale
 There are no flashy shots of kids showing off -- the book is composed mostly of portraits and atmospheric images of Kitintale and the skaters interacting with it. The kids (including a handful of girls) stand holding their skateboards, gazing into the camera with a certain calm pride, and looking, for the most part, like skate kids anywhere in the world -- the backgrounds being the only real evidence of their location. The kids are unusual for this locale, but don't look out of place. They belong to Kitintale as anyone else growing up there would, but are perhaps even more apart of it, being active shapers in the community's cultural future. Though the skate kids annoy some residents, they are mostly seen as local legends. The vitality of skateboarding culture, its help-out-your-brother, do-it-yourself ethos has transform the lives of these kids.
From Kitintale
Most images are accompanied by captions and additional text appears at intervals throughout the book.  It is presented in a plastic slip-case that has been screen printed by Gross.  A really fantastic book -- an engaging project well photographed and just as well presented. -- Sarah Bradley

The Uganda Skateboard Union has a website full of photos from the construction of the skatepark and the kids, as well as more information and how to donate money, old gear, and visit the park.

Kitintale was selected by Larissa Leclair and Peter Sutherland. Find more information on the book here.