Focus / Olivier "Tavu" Ente

Interview and portrait: Benjamin Deberdt

 Benjamin Deberdt

Olivier will have been one of the very first to hear about Live as a project, and also receive the orders to film for it…
First, because he isn’t on the talking too much side, and most importantly, because he is one of these true original skateboarders, by, simply, doing his thing. Keeping away from trends, Olivier has always mixed tech and an all terrain approach, most likely influenced by his northern roots: red bricks and cobblestones made the streets of his city of Lille, and Belgium skateparks and their transitions made for winter life savers… So, he did develop his own style, and has been doing that since, on his board off course, by skating his surroundings like no one else; and by exploring his other passion for drawing and design.
When Live was barely started, “Tavu” delivered a unique part for its aesthetics and skating, also. For complicated and uninteresting reasons, it is only being put out today. Scroll down the page to watch it right away, or read on and learn a bit more about this character: he is worth the go!

Let’s begin from the start: how did you find out about skateboarding in the early 90’s?
My brother was already skating a bit, with a friend, in our neighborhood, in Armentières. But I didn’t really think much of it. A few months later, in the park next to our place, the council poured this slab of asphalt and dropped a couple obstacles: a tiny mini with a spine, a slider and another spine. The usual…
One day, coming back from school, they had just delivered the pieces, and all the guys that skated had come to check it out. In two minutes, they put the piece together, found some wood to wedge it all and, boom, they were about ten skating the makeshift mini ramp, with all the neighborhood kids freaking out. After that, every Wednesday and weekends, it was on! That must have been the first time, in 91, 92, I think.

Describe the local scene, in Lille, by then…
It was quite rare we would go to Lille, actually. When we would, D.D.E. was the spot. On a Saturday afternoon, you were sure to see everybody: that was the real heart of the scene. Or we would go to Belgium, to the Leffinge skatepark, on any rainy day, or go hit little spots along the coast. Later, it would be Lille 3 and the Pont de Bois plaza with its marble ledges around it.

Explain what D.D.E. was.
It was THE spot, during those times, a brick plaza, with smoother areas to do flatland, a little manual pad, and some stairs going from one to twelve, if you were feeling good. The ideal gathering point at those times… Since, the stairs are fenced, as the building is sinking a bit! Caution first.

How much do you think your first exposure to skateboarding shapes the skater you end up being?
For sure, you are influenced by the first videos you see, you want to be part of this group, with its clothing, its codes. But I think it is the people you meet, the friends you make and with who you share it all for a while that open the road you will travel.

You live in a city that built a streetplaza quite a while ago, now. How do you see it affect the scene on the long term, now?
It was built at the same time as the indoor skatepark, in 2004, and that was the mistake: both are next to each other, and kind of far from the city! I might be wrong, but the streetpark was meant to be a public space, but it ended up being something completely different, sadly. It is a place to practice skateboarding, with no real interaction with the neighborhood, or the city population. If it had been built a way it was more integrated in the city, it would have been livelier. Going into town to find spots is an important part of skateboarding, and the streetpark kills that a bit. It’s so easy: perfect ledges or red bricks ground?

 Périg Morrisse

One push ollie. photo: Perig Morisse

I believe some spots in your part are downtown, but were never skated before?
Some of them, yes… For the Crooklille video, I tried to stay in town as much as possible. Spots you don’t need a car to get to… It is part of the whole thing to find spots you want to skate, and not just go where everybody has done a trick already.

You were never the kind to travel the world for spots, much, and more about doing your thing where you live, right?
I could have done more of that, but it is a luxury to travel a lot, and you need to gather a crew you can travel with, in order to come back with something.

I believe that your skating did progress, but never really “changed” in its form and what you look for, whatever the trends might have been…
As I hit many skateparks in my youth, I love skating a mini as much as doing tech manuals in town. Clearly, there are trends, but you should be doing what get you stoked, not what the others want you to do. I don’t see myself doing boneless variations!

Who influences you, these days?
The ones that are passionate.

Let’s move on to serious business: you always had a passion for let’s say “Afro-American” culture to put it simply. Do you where this is coming from?
I don’t know it this is true… I was really into hip-hop, and now I am listening to a lot of jazz. But I try to not fall into worshipping the U.S.A. What interests me are the people that went or still go all the way, live their thing to the fullest, till madness! The creative energy, despite adversity… For sure, the Afro-American population used all its hardships to create new movements, but there is more than that.

Is that something you try to push forward with your creative work?
I mostly try to put the character in his environment, hence the maps! Only using black Bic pen for the portrait, creating almost a shadow, while the map tells the rest of the story. So, I have been looking for older maps, with something else, like 70’s ones. You can tell right away, graphically. At Lille’s Braderie [a week-end long giant street market, Ed’s Note], I looked all over town for that one guy who I heard had a little box full of treasures, and took it all. I also try to only draw people I like, without projecting too much, either. All the people I choose are in a way, part of me. Weirdly enough, I see parallels with skateboarding…

How so?
The skaters’ interaction with the city, evidently, but also in the process. Like I said, the search for the maps, a bit like looking for a spot or the ideal settings to do a trick you have in mind, or draw a character… Technique is important, but aesthetics, also, in both cases, and the satisfaction I get out of it. It is something I never really analyzed, it happened, naturally.
For the record, it is when I got that Doctors of the World’s map in the mail, that I did that first Melvin Van Peebles portrait. Then, things snowballed: the day I finished the drawing, I found a discarded frame the size of it in the street: a sign! Then, a week later, same thing: I was passing by some association premises, and they were throwing those plastic bags. I checked, and they were full of maps! I made a little selection, and it was on. I have found more, since. They’ll come handy, one day. If you have any in your cave, I’ll take them!

Fela Kuti. artwork by Olivier Ente

Original artwork: Olivier Ente.

For the Magenta guest artist board you recently did, and this part, you picked up Fela Kuti…
When Soy Panday asked me to design a board for Magenta, I started to think about what I wanted to share. Not just do a nice graphic, but add another dimension, and since there are very few days where I don’t listen to some Fela tunes, it was quite logical. I just had to get it done. As for the part, it couldn’t be any different: it is a bit of an explanation for the board, with the “Tavu” logo replicating the Expensive Shit one from the record, while the tune comes from that same album. It’s all there.
Live              that’s Fela
Skateboard   that’s me
Media           that’s you!

 Perig Morisse

Fronside noselide transfert to fakie. photo : Perig Morisse

You’ve never been to San Francisco? The place is quite influential to you, isn’t it?
Yeah, it seems like such a crazy place! It is also a good example of what I was saying earlier. In San Francisco, it seems that every one can get a different thing from being there. Everybody adapts to it and skate it differently.

You don’t give skate lessons anymore. Do you see yourself trying to develop your artwork to a point of making it a job?
Like I said, I never really thought too much about it, in the beginning… So, little by little, my idea has changed on that one… I get really positive feedbacks, that’s great! It even seems fishy. In skateboarding, when you do something, apart from your friends, people are mostly jaded: “Yeah, I saw it, so what?”. But with my artwork, reactions have been super positive, almost too positive, so it’s very nice. I did not want to sell any, at first, and then I ended selling a couple…
Time will tell.

You can see more of Olivier's art, here.

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