More than just flying kites

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Haitian master kite maker at work on a large kite with the Haitian colours

By Francis Quamina Farrier

“Let’s go fly a kite”, from the heart-warming musical “Mary Poppins”, is one of those sweet songs of yesteryear, when the air was clean and flying by airplane was so much less stressful, and to go kite flying did not expose you to injury and even death. Kite flying is done in many countries around the world; from America, to Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Haiti, Japan, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore and South Africa among many others. However, unlike Guyana, kite flying is not done at Easter time in many of those countries. For example, in India, kite flying is engaged in during their Independence Day celebrations, which is on August 15.
In many American cities and states, there are Kite Flying Festivals which are not held at Easter time; some of those Kite Flying Festivals are held in New Jersey in late May, in San Francisco in early June, and in Washington State, in late August. In Cape Town, South Africa, there is an annual International Kite Festival which attracts competitors from around the world. That festival is not held at Easter time either, but in late October, and demonstrates the “social cohesion” achieved in that former land of apartheid.
Closer to Guyana, in Haiti, kite flying for 2017 is already over. Haiti’s National Kite Flying Day was on February 8, and maybe, that plane load of Haitians who recently arrived here, were probably planning to join us tomorrow for our popular Easter Monday kite flying on the Georgetown Seawalls, and to show off their attractive kites. What a pity that their arrival was met with such alarm by those who are easily upset. Kite-making in Haiti, is as creative as in Guyana, and maybe those Haitians just wanted to see for themselves just how clever and talented our kite makers are, and make comparisons. After-all Haiti and Guyana are regarded as the two poorest countries in Caricom. But the two countries have kite manufacturers of the highest abilities – from making the kadee old punch to the larger star-point singing engine, and even larger kites, Guyana and Haiti seem to be soul sisters as far as kite making and kite flying goes. Kite flying is very much a family event in both countries. Many fathers are there with their children enjoying the special day, whenever it occurs.
Bermuda – a group of small attached islands – located in the Atlantic six hundred and sixty five miles east of South Carolina, observes Easter with kite flying quite similar as we do in Guyana. Hundreds of Bermudians along with vising tourists to that popular tourist destination, go on the beautiful and clean beaches and fly their kites. Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory and an Associate Member of CARICOM. The first non-white to head the government of Bermuda, was Sir Edward Richards, who was born at Adelphi, Canje, Berbice, British Guiana in 1908. His mother died while he was yet an infant, and he was raised by his father and grandmother. At age 21, Edward Richards migrated from his humble Adelphi village, East Canje, to Bermuda as a teacher, and later, as a trained lawyer, he soared like a Guyanese star-point, singing-engine kite with a long beautiful tail, dancing in the blue Bermuda skies, and making history as that country’s first black Premier. Sir Edward Richards was the official representative of Bermuda, at Guyana’s first Independence celebrations in 1966.

Guyanese-born Sir Edward Richards wearing wig and gown, in his younger years as a practicing lawyer in Bermuda

While Kite Flying can be safe fun most of the time, there is a measure of danger to the sport, when certain negative elements are injected into it. In Guyana and in other countries, including Brazil, China and India, some irresponsible and daring kite flyers, attach sharp items such as razor blades, to the kite lines and kite tails, with the intent of bringing down other kites. But in some instances, that causes serious injury and even death to people. For example, last year, during the August 15, 2016 Kite Flying Independence celebrations in India, two children and a man were killed in the Indian capital, when their throats were slit by glass-covered strings used by other kite flyers. Here in Guyana, we are aware of injuries sustained by people in the past, from kite tails with razor blades attached to them. The Police have arrested and charged some of those law-breakers, who were found flying kites which had items such as razor blades attached to the kite tails, which is illegal here in Guyana.
On the commercial side of kite making, some Guyanese are now expressing concern that the local kite manufacturing industry, is being undermined to some degree, by kites imported from China, in more recent years. While those Chinese manufactured kites are very attractive, there is the feeling that Guyanese-made kites, should be better supported and flown at Easter time. In many countries, including China and America, kites are made in all sorts of designs, shapes and sizes; from birds to animals, including butterflies, and large creatures such as dragons, octopuses and wales. Meanwhile, this year, Blossoms of Guyana and the Guyana Embassy in Washington, DC, USA, have together, organized a Pre-Independence Kite Flying Family Fun Day for May 7, at the Rosaryville State Park at Upper Malboro, Maryland. There are prizes to be won for kites which best represent Guyana.
Easter in British Guiana and now Guyana, kite flying is still an exciting time for Guyanese, as we “Tramp, tramp along the Highway” of independence, and across the swamp lands of official “Social Cohesion”. On Easter Monday, 2017, thousands of us, white, black, pink and blue, PPP, PNC, WPA, AFC and XYZee, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Rastafarians, will mingle together in happy sisterhood and brotherhood, on beaches and safe open spaces on the coast land, as well as in the mountain areas and the wide open Rupununi Savannahs. It is the kind of unofficial “Social Cohesion” engaged in over the decades, at Easter time and at other times, such as Phagwah and Diwalli. So come Easter Monday, Guyanese will fly kites once again, as we slowly and painfully edge towards the objective of becoming a Nation with citizens embracing our National Motto of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.” So at this Easter time, “Let’s go fly a kite”, but please be safe, and keep far away from live electric wires when flying your kites. And no razor blades on your kite tails. HAPPY EASTER.