Kite crazy in Singapore

Ms Widiyati posing with some of her kites.
Ms Widiyati posing with some of her kites.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
Left: Ms Maggie Mok of Show Kites Singapore said the big kites her organisation has are mainly white and red - like its version of a Merlion kite - to represent Singapore. Right: Another big kite. Ms Widiyati of the Singapore Kite Association said in
Left: Ms Maggie Mok of Show Kites Singapore said the big kites her organisation has are mainly white and red - like its version of a Merlion kite - to represent Singapore. Right: Another big kite. Ms Widiyati of the Singapore Kite Association said inflatable ones are common at kite festivals.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MAGGIE MOK, CLARICE TEO
Left: Ms Maggie Mok of Show Kites Singapore said the big kites her organisation has are mainly white and red - like its version of a Merlion kite - to represent Singapore. Top: Another big kite. Ms Widiyati of the Singapore Kite Association said infl
A miniature kite made by antique furniture restorer Tommi Chan.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MAGGIE MOK, CLARICE TEO

As attendance rises, festivals grow, designs get more elaborate

Kite flying has become more popular over the years, with more people participating in the Singapore Kite Day, an annual festival celebrating the ancient art.

Attendance at the event, organised by national water agency PUB and the Singapore Kite Association (SKA), has risen from 5,000 in 2010 to 7,000 last year, a 40 per cent jump.

For this year's festival, to be held on July 23 and 24 at the Marina Barrage, the association is expecting a crowd of 7,000 to 10,000.

Said Mr Wing Lee, 60, president of SKA: "Kite flying is a very affordable sport that can help in family bonding. I see more families with young children flying kites at the Marina Barrage every weekend."

Kite designs have also evolved over the years, becoming more elaborate and larger in size - from the basic diamond-shaped kites attached to a single line and the traditional wau bulan, or Malay moon kite, to sport or stunt kites on multiple lines that can perform turns and loops.

 
 
 

These days, inflatable kites are all the rage among avid kite fliers.

Said Ms Gadis Widiyati Riyadi, 55, secretary of SKA: "Inflatable kites are the most common... in kite festivals, especially in competitions."

Kites embedded with LED lights, which cost about $500 each, are also taking flight, said Mr Lee. "People enjoy the LED kites illuminating the night sky."

The most elaborate kite that the SKA owns is the Merlion Kite. It has the head of a Merlion and a 68-panel train body printed with the design of Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim. The massive kite, which cost $500, was made by two SKA members and took six months to complete.

On whether special technology is employed to launch mega kites, Mr Lee said: "We do not use any technology. It's all about the wind. If the wind is good, it takes about 15 minutes for three professional kite fliers to launch a mega kite."

The growing interest in kite flying has prompted SKA to organise kite festivals in the heartland.

In 2008, SKA, together with Punggol Meridian Residents' Committee (RC) and Punggol Oceanus RC, invited kite fliers from Malaysia, Indonesia and France to showcase their kite displays at a kite festival in Punggol.

Said Mr Lee: "We invited international fliers because we wanted to promote Singapore as a kite-flying destination and strengthen the kite-flying culture in Singapore. About 3,000 people attended the kite festival in 2008."

In 2010, the festival attracted a crowd of 7,000 to 8,000.

Meanwhile, the NTUC Income Kite Festival, which started in 2009 and ran till 2014, saw at least 10,000 people each year.

Ms Ruby Lim-Yang, artistic director of ACT 3 International, which presented the festival, said: "We were very encouraged by the sheer number of people that attended the event, from kite-flying enthusiasts to first-timers, to families taking part in a fun activity together."

International kite players and their displays will be featured at the coming annual Singapore Kite Day at the Marina Barrage. This year, they include those from Australia, China, France, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia and Vietnam. The event will also have a kite-flying workshop, a wind garden and kite performances by professional fliers from Singapore and other countries. Admission to the event is free.

"We'll have a mega-flying routine synchronised with music. We will also have about 15 sport-kite fliers from Singapore and overseas joining us for the festival," said Ms Widiyati.

The SKA, which has around 50 members aged from 20 to 73, organises kite workshops on an ad hoc basis, having worked with schools, companies and museums, said Ms Widiyati.

Said Mr Lee: "The star-shaped kite is usually created during corporate kite workshops for the purpose of team building because it's bigger in size."

Serious kite fliers here are also making their own kites.

Mr Tommi Chan, 43, an antique furniture restorer, is one of them. He said: "I started making miniature kites six to seven years ago... I derive a sense of fulfilment when I customise my own kites."

For others, such as Mr Leong Kum Kwong, who flies delta - a modern single-line kite shaped like a triangle - and inflatable kites at festivals here and overseas, it is a healthy hobby that helps keep them occupied after retirement.

"I love kite flying as I enjoy nature," said Mr Leong, 73, the oldest member of SKA.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Kite crazy'. Print Edition | Subscribe