Kite Flying – A tradition is fast disappearing – By Adam Harris

Kite Flying – A tradition is fast disappearing

Kite flying appears to be a dying tradition. In years gone by there would have been kites in the sky almost after Mashramani. Boys would have used the coconut pointers to make kites. These would be seen over many houses. A few weeks later there would have been the real preparations for Easter.

Kids and their kites at Easter

Those who attended the handicraft centres would have planed strips of wood to make the frames. Shops would be stocked with what was known as kite paper. The more affluent of the boys would have gone for the more expensive Barbados paper.

A wide selection of kires

These days I see imported kites. These come at a cost to the economy, but who cares? The people who make kites and line them up outside stores cannot compete, so we are effectively killing local enterprise.

In rural Guyana where I lived, few people bought kites, but that had nothing to do with imported kites. We made our own.

Indeed there were no smart phones back then, so children found activities to keep them occupied. I remember the dangerous ‘spinners’ fashioned from the bottom of milk tins. All that needed to be done was to find a strip of concrete on which to grate the tins.

Once done, one would punch holes near the centre of the tin, place a piece of string through, and one had a toy. Of course it was dangerous; many people were cut, because the edge of the spinner was razor sharp.

Guyana – Kite flying at Easter

The greatest danger came when two boys would play ‘rake.’ They would use the spinners to compete with other spinners in the hands of the holder. That was how many people got cut. Suffice it to say that I can remember no incident of one being rushed to hospital.

Used tyres made for a super toy. These were rolled down the street. Any tyre was good. There were tyre races that featured enterprising boys beating the tyres down the street in what could only be described as a foot race.

Today we bemoan the fortunes of West Indies cricket. Our lads simply seem unable to compete with others in the rest of the world. Back in the day, every patch was a cricket pitch; the balls came in all shapes. Some used balata, some, milk tins and others, any round object from trees including young coconuts.

The size of the cricket pitch determined restraint in stroke play. You hit a ball too hard and sent it into a neighbour’s yard meant that you were out. The result is that young batsmen learned to keep the ball on the ground. Dropped catches meant missing a turn at bat. Jamaicans played a game called ‘ketchie shubbie’. In Guyana we called it ‘get the ball bowl; out the man bat.’ Guyana produced many good cricketers and so did the other Caribbean islands.

Easter was the time for many games and the cinema. It was when people did all the chores imposed on them, because a failure to do so would mean no cinema or no games.

Going to church was not a matter of choice for those whose parents were Christians. Many of us dreaded the Good Friday services. For starters, some services began at nine and some at noon. For each, one could not eat a hearty meal.

These were three-hour services of kneeling and standing almost continuously. The boredom was immense, but one had no choice. The midday meal, often cross buns and porridge, was the staple. Perhaps that is why many of us do not go to church any longer, and in so doing, allow our children to miss the discipline and the words of sanity.

The radio station played sombre music; rum shops were closed, in fact all shops and stores were closed, but that did not necessarily mean ‘no business’, because things were sold through the back door.

While I lived at Bartica, it was always funny to see the alcoholics lining up outside the rum shops just before opening time at six o’clock in the afternoon. You could not escape them wiping their mouths and other signs that suggested that desperation for a drink. I am not sure that an alcoholic cannot find a drink at any time these days.

One can hear dance hall music on the radios almost all day. The religious movies seem to have disappeared from the television screens.

I remember these things, because I do not see children playing as they should. I also realize that children from the other side of the tracks easily gravitate to crime because their youthful exuberance can find no other outlet.

So here I sit thinking about the benefits of technology and the consequences they bring. I think about the holy days when my parents would refuse to let me venture outside; telling me that I needed to sleep. I resented the order to sleep when I felt that I did not need to. My mother often admonished me, telling me that one day I would need that sleep.

I failed to see her side of the coin until I became a grown man. Good Friday was indeed a day of rest for me. I slept through most of the day after I had cooked. Indeed, I had vowed that I would have no porridge and cross buns for lunch.

Another promise I made was to avoid soup on Sundays. There was a time when I knew what my midday meal would be on Sunday, years in advance.

I too have broken with tradition, but there are traditions that I would like to see maintained. Kite-flying is one of them.

Guyana- Flying kites at the seawall


Easter: Kite Flying in Guyana – with pictures by Nigel Durant

Kite flying at Easter is a unique Guyanese tradition. Fly a kite at any other time and you’ll be thought of as rather odd. The origins of the practice are a bit hazy but the general explanation is that the kite is symbolic of the Risen Lord. How it started, though, is the subject of speculation.    READ MORE

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 04/03/2018 at 10:08 pm

    If the photos are examples of Easter Weekend at the Seawall in Georgetown …

    I guess the author is right. Of course, in the 1950s and 60s we did not have all the distractions – mostly technology-driven distractions.

    Perhaps, I better get back there for next Easter to check out the Seawall, at least

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 04/04/2018 at 12:33 pm

    “Another promise I made was to avoid soup on Sundays.”
    ~ My father cooked soup on Sundays. I assumed we were the unlucky family. I had no idea that was a local tradition.

    I have many happy childhood memories of kite-making, kite-flying, blended with extended-family and friends picnics during the Easter Season. It was a tradition that connected us with each other. Indeed, such traditions should not be lost.

  • Stanley Greaves  On 04/08/2018 at 7:08 pm

    Singing engine is really singing angel from Barbados kites often left up in the air overnight. Barbados paper is an English craft paper known as flint paper.

  • Stanley Greaves  On 04/08/2018 at 7:16 pm

    In the Pacific kites were made from breadfruit leaves and midribs from coconut leavers (pointers). The kite was flown from a boat. A bone hook was tied to the tail which was trailed in the water to catch fish.
    Our kankawa kite was made with the pointers pushed through a piece of paper.

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