Home in focus: Creativity takes flight, even while at home

Hobbyists have been making new kites or sprucing up old ones during period of Covid-19 restrictions, waiting to fly them again

At the Marina Barrage on Sunday afternoons, it would have been hard to miss the large inflatable kites anchored to the open field facing the sea.

A group of enthusiasts, mostly from local kite group Show Kites Singapore, would be setting up their colourful creations, which come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the small - about 2m in length - to 26m-long rainbow-hued giants.

When the Covid-19 circuit breaker began on April 7, however, they were no longer able to fly their kites. But with measures further eased in phase two of Singapore's reopening from last Friday, some of them did so again yesterday, though outdoor activities are restricted to groups of up to only five people.

The kite fliers have not been idle during the period of restrictions, however.

Project coordinator Johnny Yap and his wife Maggie Mok, a housewife, both 45, have made use of their time at home to repair and spruce up their giant kites, which they inflate at the lift landing outside their top-floor apartment in Bedok.

The couple founded Show Kites Singapore in 2014 to promote family bonding and encourage outdoor activities with kite flying.

Sometimes, to their neighbours' amusement and enjoyment, fantastic beasts would appear on the basketball court downstairs, left there by the couple to dry, or be spread out along the void deck in preparation for international festivals.

Mr Ong Ah Huat, another kite-flying regular, has substituted his weekend outings with washing and sunning his giant inflatable kites.

After a quick rinse, the 52-year-old technician hangs them on the parapet outside his home in Sembawang, providing a spectacle of colour to neighbours who have become familiar with his unique hobby, as well as puzzled passers-by.

"I miss the gatherings, and the sky and sea breeze from our mini 'playground' at Marina Barrage," he said.

Other kite-flying enthusiasts such as Mr Tan Poh Wah have been designing and constructing new kites.

The 65-year-old lorry driver has been at home because of work restrictions, and has been busying himself with not only creating new kites entirely out of recycled materials, but also repairing old ones he has found abandoned in trees or dumped in the bin over the years.

Mr Tan using a cardboard cut-out to trace a part of the coronavirus kite's design onto fabric from an old umbrella. He mostly uses recycled materials or discarded kites to bring his designs to life. Some of Mr Tan's creations during the circuit break
A huge Merlion kite created by Mr Johnny Yap and his wife Maggie Mok, both 45, outside their flat in Bedok. They sometimes inflate the kites to check for tears or damage. The Merlion kite is a great conversation starter when they travel for international kite festivals. 

Affectionately known in the local kite community as the Kite Doctor, he would help others fix their kites on the spot at Marina Barrage.

Mr Tan said in Chinese: "Nobody likes to see the same thing over and over again, therefore I love making new kites when I have the time."

Mr Tan using a cardboard cut-out to trace a part of the coronavirus kite's design onto fabric from an old umbrella. He mostly uses recycled materials or discarded kites to bring his designs to life. Some of Mr Tan's creations during the circuit break
Mr Ong Ah Huat with a 12m-long caterpillar kite in the corridor outside his Sembawang flat. The 52-year-old finds joy seeing his kites blowing in the wind this way even when he is unable to fly them. 

The circuit breaker gave him the time to try out fresh ideas, including combining damaged or discarded kites to form bigger and more interesting designs, while also improving their aerodynamics.

One of his masterpieces during the circuit breaker is a kite about 1m in diameter which he constructed to look like a coronavirus under the microscope. The template was given to him by a friend and he sewed the whole kite himself, making use of recycled umbrellas. It took him two weeks to complete.

Far from being macabre, it would be a reminder, as it flies high, of these unprecedented times, said Mr Yap, who encouraged Mr Tan to make the kite.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2020, with the headline 'Creativity takes flight, even while at home'. Print Edition | Subscribe