Photo credit: Lars Koopmans CC BY-SA 3.0
A sight you don’t see every day: a King on a skateboard.
Yet, that happened during a visit that King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians undertook to Skateistan.
Their Majesties were in Johannesburg, South Africa’s capital, and were visiting the skate park during their ongoing state visit to the country.
The park is part of a project by Belgian company Skateroom aiming to offer after-school classes to help children acquire new skills and improve their self-confidence while keeping them off the streets.
In a video posted on Twitter by reporter Wim Dehanschutter, King Philippe is seen slowly getting on the board while asking for tips from the children surrounding him.
Queen Mathilde, dressed in an Odile Jacobs piece (a Belgian-Congolese designer), watched on and offered her hand to prevent her husband from falling. She was also wearing a pair of red heels, which made her make the wise decision of being a support and not trying to get on a board herself.
The park is one of the projects supported by Skateroom, a Belgian company that works on creating unique skateboards. They devolve 10% of their profits to supporting social projects in various parts of the world, with Skateistan being just one of them.
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are on a five-day state visit to South Africa, the first ever to the country by a Belgian monarch and the first one to the continent since 1979, when King Baudouin made a state visit to Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire.
Before Skateistan, the Queen had visited Emuseni Daycare Centre, a school that works in close ties with Belgium to transfer skills to primary school children. The institute is located in Soweto, a suburb of Johannesburg, famous for being one of the landmarks of the fight against Apartheid.
Meanwhile, King Philippe visited a new business hub, where he talked to young professionals in the gemstones and precious metals industry, one of the biggest exports from South Africa to Belgium.
The discussion centred around building a more sustainable business model for the industry, and the King was given a tour of a new diamond polishing facility built by Belgian company Pluczenik and a South African entrepreneur.
The King and Queen then reunited for one of the most poignant moments of the trip: the visit to the Hector Pietersen Museum in Soweto. The facility bears the name of the 12-year-old boy that was shot and killed by Apartheid police in the same spot where the museum was built. They laid a wreath at his memorial before meeting his surviving sister, Antoinette Sithole.
This is the second trip to Africa for Queen Mathilde just this month – from the 14th to the 16th of March, she was in Egypt with her older daughter retracing the steps of Queen Elisabeth, who was a passionate Egyptology fan.