Today I visited the fascinating World Kite Museum at Long Beach, Washington. If you are like me the first time I heard kite museum I thought “Snooze.” But it turned out to be so interesting! The first thing that caught my interest was about how kites were used in World War 2.
What could the gunners in World War 2 use as realistic target practice? The answer was kites. They modified the kite and included a rudder and two lines to help the kite mimic an enemy aircraft. The kite was able to dive, make figure eights, loop and recover. Kites were not only used as target practice. Equipment attached to the kites could collect valuable data such as meteorological data for safe air traffic and use radar detection to spot oncoming planes at a longer distances. Kites were also used to protect planes. The Barrage Kite had wires hanging from it, these wires were strong enough to shear the wings off enemy planes.
The kite museum also brought out the history, art, and competition of kites in other lands. China, Japan, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Thailand. What may appear to be just a “normal” kite could have special significance. The color, design, shape, and make of a kite could mean different things. Here are some interesting facts I learned:
Japan–“All kites must have pictures. A white kite means death.” Mary Yoshimi
There are three unique characteristics of Japanese kites:
Use of bamboo for kites sticks.
By using heat and moisture bamboo can be shaped, and it holds that shape forever. No other wood does that.
Washi (kite skin)
A special paper plays a major part in traditional Japanese kites. Washi, a fibrous paper made from the mulberry bush, is used. It is handmade in sheets, not rolls. For larger kites, many sheets are glued together with a variety of starch pastes and glue. This is not rice paper.
The decoration on Japanese kites require special techniques. Because paints bleed on washi, the artist must first outline his pictures with black sumi ink. This prevents bleeding. The colors on Japanese kites are usually dyes, not water paints which block the light.
India–No one in India buys just one kite. Even four is a skimpy purchase. They don’t have to be pretty. It’s your flying skills that are important. But you want to recognize your kite in the sky.
A sweet sounding festival in India is the Saloono Festival.
Saloono means the first day of spring. It is a festival of brothers and sisters. Early in the day, each sister ties a string around her brother’s wrist, a symbol of love. Later, from every housetop in town, the boys fly saffron yellow kites, the color of Indian spring, as an emblem of their own pledge of love, a bracelet bound in the sky as a bond to their sisters.
Kites in India weren’t only used for brother and sisters. They were messengers of love, sending love letters behind walls.
“You are away
Yet my mind is with yours.
Just as a kite
Soaring in the sky
Is held by the flier’s hand.
The Nayaika sees
The shadow of a kite
Against the courtyard walls.
She runs madly
Pursuing the fleeting shape
Yearning to touch it
To hold it in her arms.
Battle of the Sexes
Two distinct kites are featured in the competitive battle of the sexes that is kite fighting in Thailand. The male, chula, is a star-shaped kite equipped to catch other kites by means of barbs attached to its flying line. The chula was originally, and continues to be, engineered for speed, power, and agility. The female, pakpao, is much smaller than the chula and is a simple-looking diamond shape. Designed for speed, agility and precision, the pakpao flutters with a characteristically teasing feminine pattern of flight.
The object of the competition is to acquire points through capture. The competition consists of a series of matches that are launched in quick succession, each generally lasting no longer than 5 minutes. In the quest for high scores, teams try to maximize the number of matches played, accruing points for each win. Three chula teams are stationed at the southern end of the field, but only one at a time is flown into pakpao territory, where several females wait, fluttering in the wind.
Each match is fast, fierce, and playful. The chula chooses a pakpao and that choice is final for the match. Both the pakpao and chula dance around each other vying for height-the advantageous position. The male/female interplay is dynamic; the chula tries to ensnare with its barbs, the pakpao tries to entangle its bigger foe with its lasso or tail. Whichever kite brings the other down wins points for the match, kites are returned to the respective teams, and a new match is already underway.
The Drachen Foundation
Politics Bans Kites
When the Taliban took over the Afghani government following the communist rule, strict return to old religious rules began. No art, or sporting or social fun along with clothing and beard rules were harshly enforced. After 9/11, the Western world invaded Afghanistan looking for perpetrators of the New York Towers destruction.
“The Taliban left at 2 am and at 9 am I was flying my kites.” Nour Aga
A movie they suggested to watch is The Kite Runner. I have never seen it, but the trailer looks interesting.
Indonesian: Their first kites were made from leaves. Leaf kites were used to get their fishing line farther out to sea. Kites were also used to catch large fruit bats.
I had never thought of sound being an important part of a kite. I’ve enjoyed the sound of my kite fluttering in the wind, but in Japan when the kites were made of cypress it caused a roaring sound. It sounded like a dive bomber and during World War 2 they were banned. These types of kites were called Tsugaru-dako.
In the Malaysia Festival they have a musical competition. The kite or wau that is used must fly the best for getting sound. The “hummer” must make noise for at least 15 minutes and the more different tones it makes the higher the score.
Stop by this World Kite Museum and enjoy the different kite cultures. They also have a section where you can make your own kite as a souvenir.