Man has always had a great fascination for flying so much so that many stories have been told through the ages about his futile attempts to imitate the natural ability of birds to soar or cruise in the air. In his failure he resorted to the next best thing - inventing something that flew or he could send airborne. This was probably what led him to make the kite more than two thousand years ago.
Records show that hisotrians differed on who was the first creator of the kite. Some claimed it was a Greek called Archytas, who lived nearly 2,400 years ago, while others credited it to a Chinese named Han-Sin, who existed about 200 years after Archytas.
Whatever the annals say about this, one thing was certain that it was made for pleasure to satsify man's longing to take to the air.
Over the centuries, the kite progressed from an object of pastime to a vehicle for purposes of study. Famous persons like Benjamin Franklin, Graham Bell, and the Wright Brothers successfully employed kites to conduct their atmospheric electricity and aeronautics.
Today the kite may no longer be used to carry out experiments but it is still flown as a hobby as well as a sport in competitions, especially in southeast and eastern Asia.
During competitions the kites, which vary in size, are colorfully decorated in the forms of birds, dragons and fishes.
In Brunei Darussalam, kite flyiing has for centuries been a popular traditional game, both with adults and children.
The kite, which is called kikik in the Bruneian dialect, consists of a wooden or bamboo framework covered with paper, clothing or synthetic material. Bruneian kite enthusiasts prefer using bamboo, particularly one species known locally as buluh temiang because of its greater flexibility. The other components of a kite are paper, string and gum. Before commercial gum came into the scene, kite producers used cooked rice or sago, known locally as ambuyat, to make the paper or clothing stick to the framework. However most kite makers still prefer the traditional sago to the modern day gum. The various parts of the framework are tied with string in accordance with the kind of shape and size of the kite.
Once it is completed, a long string is attached to the kite, which is sent aloft by the action of wind on its surfaces. The height or distance can be determined by manipulating the string from the ground.
In the old days kite-flying was more than just a game. It was more often than not a duel among friends. It was for this reason that each kite player was always on the alert by having several feet of the top part of the string coated with ground glass and cooked tapioca flour, making it quite sharp and stiff. The idea was to entangle and sever an opponent's kite string. Once could recall that sometimes about a dozen or more kits were seen flying in the sky, attacking and trying to cut one another out of circulation. The one that survived the ordeal was declared the winner of the eagerly fought battle. The vanquished were never disheartened by the experience. Each was even more determined to become the victor in the next encounter.
Various names are given to kites, which included bilis, siar manjar, sijulak, lasik, jangkang and lipat. Why a different title is assigned to each kite, only the kitemaker can fully comprehend but the design, shape and size of the kite have a lot to do with it.
Although kite enthusiasts have not yet come close to forming a club or a society, there is some sort of a national committee in existence, which organises a kite festival at least once a year during the birthday celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan and selects participants to kite events overseas.
There is no reason to think that kite-playing will ever disappear from the scene in the forseeable future, given the zeal people are devoting to this ancient sport in Brunei Darussalam and many parts of Asia.
Fig.* The Kite Framework
Fig.* The bamboo, some of which are seen n the floor, is split, pared and smoothened until the desired size is obtained. One of the country's kitemakers, Awang Haji Besar is seen in the picture doing just that
Fig.* Once all the required bamboo parts are ready, making the framework follows
Fig.* Using the forefinger the gum is evenly spread on the paper to make it stick to the framework
Fig.* Pieces of coloured paper are measured and cut against the framework
Fig.* The variety of Bruneian kites, each with a name of its own
Fig.* A few more of the vital ingredients of akite, namely glass, tapioca flour, which has to be cooked first an then mixed with ground glass to make the top part of the kite string stiff and sharp; and cooked sago or ambuyat to gum down the paper as above
Fig.* Once completed the kite is tested to make sure that it can fly
Fig.* A giant kite such as this requires a few people to make it airborne
Fig.* A creative competitor whose design can be described as revolutionary as far as kite-making is concerned
Fig.* Lining up for kite competition
Fig.* More of the participants with colourful kites before the start of the competition
Author: Bolhassan bin Haji Abu Bakar
Source: Brunei Today published by Information Department, June 1994