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Cut and thrust of kite-flying
IN Singapore, open spaces are scarce and wind speeds aren't always ideal, but that's no deterrent to local kite-flying enthusiasts who get their thrills from the more "analogue" pursuit of keeping a kite in flight.
Gadis Widiyati, 54, is one of about 20 professional kite-fliers in Singapore who was drawn to the sport as a child and surprised her friends by continuing the sport up till today. The secretary of the Singapore Kites Association takes part in local and international kite festivals and says of her lifelong passion: "You get to breathe in the fresh air while bonding with your family and friends in the real world. What could be better than that?"
Depending on the time of year, the best flying spots are the Marina Barrage and West Coast Park.
"The winds come in from the north-east until May, so the East Coast is still a good spot, but from July onwards, the wind comes in from the south-west direction, so you should go to the West Coast," she says.
The Singapore Kites Association (SKA) dates back to 1982, when they were formed to host and organise kite festivals in Singapore and across the Asian region. They held the Singapore International Kite Festival between 1982 and 1986 to showcase kites from different countries, and revived this tradition in 2008. They currently have around 50 members, ranging in age from 20 to 70 years. The association's president, Wing Lee, 59, notes that they're seeing a revived interest, which is why, "We've started up again to bring kite-flying back to the heartlands."
Since 2010, the SKA have teamed up with Marina Barrage to hold an international kite festival. The tradition will continue this year in August with activities such as a kite-flying workshop, a wind garden and some kite performances by professional kite fliers.
The festival has attracted more than 5,000 people in the past, but the SKA aims to increase its popularity this year for SG50. Ms Widiyati says: "We'll have a mega-flying routine synchronised with 16 fliers, where we'll spell out the characters 'SG50' using kites."
Another popular kite festival in Singapore is the NTUC Income Kite Festival, a free event presented by ACT 3 International. It had its sixth annual festival last year and attracted close to 20,000 people. Its highlights included youth activities such as kite-inspired graffiti and parkour to broaden interest in the festival.
When she was a child, Ms Widiyati wasn't only interested in flying kites but fighting them. In order to win, there are several factors to consider: the flexibility and stability of the bamboo frames, the quality of the string, and the fliers' skills and ability to adjust to the ever-changing wind. You win when you cut down the other kites.
Ms Widiyati says: "People said I was a tomboy when I did kite-fighting, and now some school friends are still surprised that I've kept up with kites."