Having lived under an Israel-imposed blockade and the threat of violence for most of their lives, sport and physical activity has become a form of escapism for many young people in Gaza. Before the pandemic, photographer Nicola Zolin headed to the Gaza Strip.

Night has already fallen in Gaza when the lights of a car coming over the hill illuminate the darkness of the city, revealing the shapes of two skateboarders heading my direction.

They both live in ‘Shati’, a refugee camp on the city’s outskirts along the beach, in which over 85,000 people reside in an area of only 0.52 square kilometers. It’s one of the most densely populated place in the world. Their families are already waiting for them to return home, but tonight is a special night: their Italian friends have arrived in town, so they’re allowed to stay out a little longer.

Roger, 25, whose full name is Mohammad Al-Sawalhi, and 19-year-old Nasrallah Abu Karsh, who everyone calls Nas, have been welcoming a group of young activists from Milan each year for the last five years. Backed by Centro Vik and the Italian NGO ACS (Association of Cooperation and Solidarity), which work on cultural and infrastructural projects in rural areas excluded from economic development, they entered Gaza with radical humanitarian ideas: building a skate park for the youth, recording music with local rappers, discussing feminist theories with women’s groups, cooperating with local artists, and more besides—all of it culminating in the ‘Gaza Freestyle’ festival.