Keeping the art of kite-making alive

One of Ishan Bacchus’s family members pasting a kite

 By Devina Samaroo

The skies will come alive with a kaleidoscope of colours and symphonious singing as fleets of aerial artistry soar above the clouds in a zigzag dance, heralding Easter in Guyana.
A unique tradition that has survived the test of time, kite-flying can be enjoyed throughout the year, but is most popular around this period, as it symbolises the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Regardless of the religious meaning, Guyanese from all walks of life flock popular open spaces, like waterfront areas and vast parks, to participate in this annual carnival-like activity. Adults and kids alike find immense happiness as they struggle to hoist their kites in friendly rivalries to see which ascends the fastest and the farthest. But the pleasures of the festivities begin long before the flying of the kites, at least for those who still find joy in kite-making.
Though the markets now are flooded with the imported plastic bird kites, many prefer to purchase the readymade handcrafted artforms which line the streets of major cities and villages in the lead-up to the fun-filled weekend.
And for some, they prefer to dedicate their own time and unleash their creativities to design and develop their own kites from scratch.

“Good ole” days
Many of you may remember the good old days of making the caddy ole punch using book pages, palm fronds from your mom’s brooms, and strings from the cookie tin that always contains sewing materials. Some may even make it fancier by attaching a tail from old rags lying around the house.
Some of you may also remember your days of running to the nearest corner shop to buy cheap ‘kite paper’, taking your keen time to pick just the right colours before rushing back home in glee to start your kite making. This is where your creativity ran wild. Using palm fronds and watered down glue, you’d skillfully slap the coloured paper onto the makeshift frame you secured nicely with thread. You’d then proceed to assemble a number of coloured papers to make the frills; and of course, if you want your kite to sing lustily, you’ll dedicate enough time to make the perfect tongue.
Your grandparents might even tell you stories – or perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself – of the time when razor blades were attached to kites before they were elevated to the skies, and thus began the war to see which kite would be the last one flying.

Kite-making remains a favoured pastime for many who have the patience, but for some, it has become a full-blown operation.  Inshan Bacchus has been making kites for over 25 years, and one day he decided to turn his hobby into a seasonal career. Bringing his entire family on board in this enterprise, Bacchus is currently busy making all kinds of kites to satisfy the high demand, which will only increase as Easter Monday approaches.
His operation, which is located on Mandela Avenue by the Creative Barber Shop, opens until 9:00pm on Easter Sunday, in order to facilitate the last-minute crowd.
Bacchus orders the wood from a lumber yard, and using an electrical machine, he cuts the wood into various slabs for the different sizes of kites he makes.
According to this veteran kite-maker, simarupa wood is the best wood to use because of its light density, which is perfect for ensuring the kite takes to the sky with ease. He also makes the much-loved box kite, but because of its intricate nature, he does it only upon orders. The box kite is usually rectangular and resembles a Japanese paper house.
Understanding the pride most persons take in owning their kite, Bacchus ensures each kite he makes is unique in its own way.
Bacchus says it is heartbreaking sometimes when he thinks about how the art and joy of kite-making has dwindled.  “It grieves my heart to see, when I go on the seawall and other places in Guyana, people are flying so many bird kites,” he stated. Bacchus underscores that kite-making is a beautiful Guyanese tradition that should never die.
“I’d like to encourage all parents, even if you can’t make kites, get involved with your children and you both try and learn to make it. It’s really fun, and it’s a cultural thing for Guyana,” he stated.
Kite flying also has deep roots in the Asian cultures of India, China, Japan, and other cultures of that geographical area.