Memories of Kite Flying in Georgetown, Guyana – By Kemahl Khan

Memories of Kite Flying in Georgetown, Guyana

– By Kemahl Khan

Adam Harris’s nostalgic piece, Kite Flying: A tradition is fast disappearing that appeared in a recent edition of the Guyanese Online Website sent me off on a trip of my own down memory lane, remembering my kite-flying days as a small kid and  later as a youth in Guyana.

The build-up to Easter Monday kite-flying on the GT seawall was a busy and exciting one for me, my older brother and friends in our neighbourhood.      

This meant getting the frames cut and planed from scrap wood at the local woodworking shop at little or no cost; buying the colourful kite paper or simple plain brown paper from the local drugstore or dry goods store to be pasted onto the frame; shaping the star for the centre of the star-point kite; making the “bull” (tongue) right for the “singing engine” kite with its raised or arcked nosepiece in contrast to the non-singing flat-framed kites; and  finding some old cloth or light rope to make the tail, and a stout piece of wood  to wrap the kite string around it for the hand-held “balla.” The tail had to be of the correct length. A short tail would cause the kite to “pitch” and crash to the ground. Some kite-fliers deliberately used short tails to engage in aerial battles with each other.

Of course, no kite would be complete without making the “loop” at the centre to which the the rest of your controlling string or twine would be attached. The loop would then be adjusted to make the kite “mount” rapidly or to “pull” when airborne. For me, my older brother would give me a “half-mounting” and/or ”half-pulling” loop, or simply the conventional loop for easy handling.

Those, who couldn’t afford kite paper, used selected newspaper pages to have at least some sort of kite of their own to participate on the “Big” day. Being poor, I saved every cent or penny I got from running errands to ensure that I had all the necessary material to get my kite well made to rival those of my friends.

Poor kids without the necessary resources would have to be contented with the  humble    “caddy- ole-punch” made with pages from school exercise books, “pointers” from your mom’s “pointer brooms” to serve as the frames, some string and cloth for the tail. Of course, you would fly the “caddy-ole-punch” in your “yard” or school playground. You wouldn’t dream of taking it to the seawall. For me as a kid of 6 or 7 years, the “caddy-ole-punch” was my first kite, easy to make and handle.

If we couldn’t afford to buy glue or paste for the “real” kites, we made our own from my mother’s starch (you may remember the old “starch and iron” days), or from a type of berry we called “gamma cherry” which we picked from trees in the “backdam”. There were no such trees in my neigbourhood.

Most exciting for me was getting up at 5.00 am on Easter Monday to make the trek on foot (couldn’t afford to own a bike) from the Albouystown/Charlestown area where I lived to the seawall. We carried the kites slung closely across our backs, holding the “ballas” tight in our hands to make sure that our kites were not damaged along the way by any sudden gust of an oncoming wind.

Arriving early at the seawall gave the advantage of securing a good spot with the right wind to get your kite airborne without becoming entangled with the other kites – a mass of kites including the huge 6 ft “man” kites, “lady” kites, box kites, bird kites. The sky was seemingly obliterated from view by the multi-coloured expanse of kites below it that filled the air with the droning sounds of the “singing engines” and  the fluttering noise of the flaps or frills glued to the sides of the kites.

Kite-flying on the seawall did not always go smoothly. Sometimes there was no strong wind; it depended on the ocean tide. Sometimes you got “tangle-up” or your kite string snapped and your kite “buss away”. To prevent the latter, you had to get a sturdy but light twine from the shop. I think it was called a number 0.Those flying the huge oversized kites used light rope and wore gloves to prevent bruising their hands. Then there were the nemeses of kite-fliers, those mischievous guys who attached razor blades to the tails of their kites to “cut away” the kites of others. Many were left in tears or near-tears to see their pieces de resistance disappearing in the far yonder with little or no hope of being retrieved.

Despite how kite-flying on the seawall turned out, it was great fun for all and rewarding for the winners of the annual kite-flying competition held there!

Kemahl Khan – Toronto – April 7, 2018

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On April 9, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Those were the days, my friend 🙂

  • Len Franklin  On April 12, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    The main thing about getting there early was getting a spot close the round house or jetty and the older guys trawling with their “tika” bikes trying to talk to the girls .

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