Kites in Jenjarom

Colourful kites dancing in the breeze, decorating the blue skies on a leisurely weekend afternoon. A group of kite enthusiasts gathered on a field in Jenjarom’s residential area, enjoying this traditional pastime regardless of age, ethnicity or nationality. Some of them would bring handcrafted kites, showcasing attractive appearances and excellent flying abilities.

Two middle-aged kite hobbyists turned kite maker, Ang Lian Seng and Ang Teong, have been actively flying kites at the Jenjarom field for over thirty years. In their youth, they bought handcrafted kites by others to dismantle and study the dynamics, gradually mastering the skills by imitation and improvement. They are able to produce kites of various shapes and sizes, for instance bird, butterfly, and Malaysia’s iconic Wau. Previously they barely knew each other, however they got along capitally in recent years of semi-retirement, often spending time together making kites while exchanging ideas.

The history of kites date back over 3000 years, an established traditional handcraft. Bamboo strips, twine, paper, glue; merely four materials involved, seemingly simple yet the actual procedure put a kite maker’s skills to the test. Matured bamboo is preferred due to better resilience, split open and leave to dry for three months. The dried bamboo is then peeled and cut into strips, and sawn into required lengths conforming to the target kite size. Next up is the most important step —— whittling bamboo strips, which is using a knife to trim the bamboo strip into a consistent thickness. The resulting thickness determines how far could the bamboo strip be bent. To maintain the bamboo strip’s bendability and resilience, during the whittling process one must make adjustments through close observation and sense of touch, gaining experience along the way, hence it is most time-consuming, requiring much patience and attention to detail.

Having prepared satisfactory bamboo strips, the kite frame may be constructed in any desired shape, however it must achieve left-right balance as well as head-tail weight balance. After tying the kite frame with twine, brush some glue to attach the paper (nowadays water-resistant plastic sheet is used instead), ensuring uniform tightness. Excesses are trimmed after the glue dried, then the kite is ready for a test flight outdoors. As long as the aerodynamic surfaces are balanced, the kite may fly steadily. Different kites may yield different curved surfaces due to wind pressure, determining which wind conditions will be ideal for the kite’s flight. 

Kite flying does not require fancy skills, just pick a kite suitable to fly in the current wind condition and pull along with the prevailing wind direction. Larger kites may require two persons cooperating to launch, one holding the kite in a stationary position while the other holding the spool runs against the wind for a short distance, the kite can be released once the twine is taut. As the kite rises to a certain height, the airflow becomes relatively stable, therefore the kite maintains a steady position. To recover the kite, walk towards the kite while reeling in to bring it down slowly, preventing damages from a sheer drop.

Dragon kites are seldom seen in Malaysia, Jenjarom’s kite enthusiasts happened to pick up such skills by chance, enabling an impressive dragon kite soaring and wagging its tail to be seen. The dragon kite is made up of a three-dimensional head, eighty body parts, and a tail. Its overall length beyond a hundred feet, and requires at least three persons to launch it into flight. The making of the dragon head is tedious, it has to be as lightweight as possible due to being incapable of flight, so that it may be lifted into the air by the body parts. Besides, the production of eighty identical round pieces for the dragon body requires careful examination and much patience.

“Dance joyfully like a butterfly, height adjusted by a string.” The skyward kite and the people on the ground are connected by a single strand of twine. Brought together by common interest, pursued crafting due to passion; as their handcrafted kites rise to the skies, their faces are lit with proud smiles. Though times changed, people nowadays prefer playing mobile games over traditional pastimes, Ang Lian Seng and Ang Teong are happy to share their experience with rookies, in the hopes of passing down kite-making skills. 

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang / Michael Lerk
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Copywriter : Pua Hui Wen


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