The International Kite Project

  • © Anja Niedringhaus
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  • © SouvidDatta - The Guardian
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  • © Corinne Gray & UHNCR
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  • © AP Photo & Khalil Hamra
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ABOUT

The International Kite Project is an immersive interactive kite flying and designing installation. Originally commissioned for An Indian Summer festival 2013 in Leicester, the immersive installation was shown at Phoenix’s cube gallery.

The project has since been developed as a partnership between Inspirate and ArtReach to play a key part in the ongoing development of Journeys Festival International (www.journeysfestival.com) and An Indian Summer.

The digital installation transports the visitor to the roof tops above cities across the world where they can fly virtual kites that have been created in the Design Studio on this website.

Looking out above the roof tops the visitor is taken to a vantage point looking out over locations in India, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Hearing the sounds within the location the visitor can see two kites anchored  in front of them flying about in the wind.

As the viewer approaches the installation body tracking sensors pick up the position of their hands and they are given control of one of the kites. The visitor is then free to fly the kite and play with it as the winds provide its uplift. A flag positioned in front of them informs the use of the wind as it swirls and changes direction and magnitude affecting the path of their kite.

The project supports the ongoing development of Journeys Festival International (journeysfestival.com), Night of Festivals (nightoffestivals.com) and An Indian Summer (www.indiansummer.org.uk).

CULTURE

Imagine a sky filled with a multitude of coloured shapes; like exotic birds taking over the skies…

The culture of kite flying has been around for centuries. It is said that the first kite was invented in Shandong in the Eastern province of China around 2000 years ago. It is believed that it all began with a farmer who decided to fix a string to his hat to protect it from escaping in the wind.

Kites have been used for a multitude of purposes over several centuries, including traditional celebrations in some cultures and aiding scientific development, such as contributing to the construction of the first airplanes in the 1800’s.

The first kites were constructed out of common, easy to obtain materials, such as bamboo to construct the frame, paper for its colourful structure and silk for the flying line.

At a later date, kite flying spread from China to Korea and then across Asia and India, each country developing their own distinctive kite flying techniques and becoming part of their culture.

© Mohamed Azakir Reuters
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© Souvid Datta, published in The Guardian
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Afghanistan CULTURE

Kite flying was brought to Afghanistan over 100 years ago and is very popular in the capital city of Kabul. The pleasure of kite flying was banned under the Taliban government in 1996 -severe punishments were sentenced to anybody caught flying a kite, few Afghans carried on making and using them in secret. Since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, the culture of kite flying has brought a real sense of pride, unity and freedom against a strict rule for several years.

Kite fighting (known as gudiparan baz) is an evolution of kite flying, believed to have resulted as a vengeance against the Taliban after their fall. It is a game of war and combat, with the aim of slashing the participant’s cutting line to win. The line is prepared by making a paste out of crushed glass and glue.

Kite fighters usually have an assistant (known as charka gir) who is responsible for smooth operation of the line, ensuring no entanglement when flying. Boys and men take to their roofs and thousands of colourful kites fly and fight in the sky. It is a significant moment where people from different social classes meet to play together. The very poor part of the population who cannot afford to buy a kite collect straggling kites that fall onto the floor; they are the called kite runners. Kite selling is a popular profession in the country as thousands are sold every week.

INDIAN CULTURE

Kites were brought to India by Chinese travellers thousands of years ago. Jaipur, the pink city of India, represents kite flying on a national scale. Sawai Ram Singh (who was the Maharaja in Jaipur from 1835 – 1880) commissioned a kite factory to make kites for people’s leisure. It is said that, at the time, lovers would send messages to their loved ones via kites.

In India, kite flying is a way of celebrating cultural days and special events. Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into capricorn on its celestial path; it takes place every January and is the only festival devoted to kites. As a result of this popularity, the industry generates a large production of kites for celebration and events, as well as being a joyful pastime. The kite making industry allows work for thousands of people in the west state of Gujarat.

Kite fighting has a strong social dimension in India. It is a hobby that extends beyond barriers of gender, cast and religion, all reunited around flying colourful kites in the sky. Kite fighters tend to choose single coloured kites and their cutting line is made out of two different textures: one is made from cotton (saddha) and the other is covered in a mixture with crushed glass (manjha). Each family has a different recipe for the paste, a secret kept over several generations.

© Meena Kadri & Flickr Creative Commons
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© Meena Kadri & Flickr Creative Commons
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INDIAN CULTURE

Kites were brought to India by Chinese travellers thousands of years ago. Jaipur, the pink city of India, represents kite flying on a national scale. Sawai Ram Singh (who was the Maharaja in Jaipur from 1835 – 1880) commissioned a kite factory to make kites for people’s leisure. It is said that, at the time, lovers would send messages to their loved ones via kites.

In India, kite flying is a way of celebrating cultural days and special events. Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into capricorn on its celestial path; it takes place every January and is the only festival devoted to kites. As a result of this popularity, the industry generates a large production of kites for celebration and events, as well as being a joyful pastime. The kite making industry allows work for thousands of people in the west state of Gujarat.

Kite fighting has a strong social dimension in India. It is a hobby that extends beyond barriers of gender, cast and religion, all reunited around flying colourful kites in the sky. Kite fighters tend to choose single coloured kites and their cutting line is made out of two different textures: one is made from cotton (saddha) and the other is covered in a mixture with crushed glass (manjha). Each family has a different recipe for the paste, a secret kept over several generations.

© Mohamed Azakir Reuters
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Syrian Culture

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict and the forced migration of millions of people from their homes, several projects involving kite flying have taken place thanks to worldwide humanitarian organisations. Australia launched the With Syria project, which manifested interest in kite flying with the idea to send love and support to the people of Syria. This initiative has helped to raise funds and practically aid refugees in their hope for a better life.

Materials used for kites are different from other countries because of the living conditions and environment. Children and adults have been very imaginative, using whatever is found in refugee camps; using plastic bags instead of colourful paper and cardboard instead of bamboo. Some use pieces of clothes from donations or materials provided by humanitarian organisations. Kite flying figures are one of the few art initiatives taking place in refugee camps and a sincere action of hope for young people.

Kite flying represents a sense of belief and aspiration, as the new generation of Syria take responsibility and make proof of incredible maturity. The symbol of freedom that kite flying represents is an important testimony to refugees. Other charitable organisations, such as Oxfam, have followed in the footsteps of Australian Aid and managed to provide clean drinking water, food, shelter, blankets and medicine.

The International Kite Project 2017

For 2017 The International Kite Project will be available to experience for free again in Leicester at the following events:

Jubilee Square – Friday 18th August
LCB Depot – Friday 25th August
Leicester Cathedral – Saturday 26th August
New Walk Museum – Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September

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Exhibited at

Interaction Design by

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