Getting down to earth after flying kites

ORIELLE BERRY

Brackenfell kiting couple Ashley and Mari Ware-Lane are still reliving the memories of a “trip of a lifetime” since their recent return from China to take part in two festivals.

Flying as high as their kites with excitement, they were also bestowed with a special award for kiting excellence in Weifang, which is said to be the place where kites originated.

The trip was sponsored through a partnership between Cape Mental Health and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) (“Kiting ambassadors off to China”, Northern News, April 13).

DCAS invited the two kiters to visit China as part of a reciprocal sporting agreement with the Shandong Sports Bureau in China, which gives local athletes the opportunity to participate in sporting events in China, and the Western Cape, which hosts Chinese athletes.

Mr Ware-Lane is organiser of the Cape Town Kite Fest, the biggest in Africa, which takes place annually in Muizenberg.

He said of the trip: “It was an absolute privilege to represent our country at an international kite festival. We made lots of friends and met many international kiters who would like to fly with us in Cape Town.”

Asked how the festivals they attended, one in Beijing and the other in Weifang, differed to the local festival, Mr Ware-Lane said the Chinese festivals are on a much larger scale. “There are a lot more local kiters and the spectators are also more knowledgeable about kiting,” he said.

He added, “just being in China was an experience of a lifetime; the opportunity to see so many different kites and to see where kiting was born was very special.

“We also visited local kite shops in Weifang and a kite factory in Beijing which was more about traditional kites than modern kites. We had so much fun interacting with the other international kiters and the locals. The Chinese people were very friendly and helpful.”

He told Northern News that while Chinese kiters are similar to kiters in South Africa, or anywhere in the world in that they love to fly kites, they are more of artists than kite makers, as a lot of their traditional kites are hand-painted.

“Kite making is handed down from generation to generation. They take on apprentices and teach them the skills, although a lot more is being modernised lately. Weifang is where most large international kite-making companies have their kites manufactured, for example by Peter Lynn Kites,” he said.

Having never been to China before, the couple also capitalised on being there to do some sight-seeing.

Mr Ware-Lane told Northern News: “We visited the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing, and flew kites at Purple Garden, a popular wedding and photo opportunity site. We also visited the Tanzhe Temple but the highlight was walking on the Great Wall of China at Bapaling.

“We would love to go back and see all the other places we missed such as the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, the Forbidden City, Lama Temple, Tiananmen Square and many others.”

While the Ware-Lanes have not attended overseas kite fests, they visited England and Europe in 2005 where they bought some kites and spares that they were unable to get in South Africa at the time. They both work passionately and tirelesssly in their free time to craft unusual kites and along with Nemos and other favourites, they fly them on “good windy days” at the Blouberg beaches where they make a day of it and, up the road from their home in Brackenfell in an open field.

Mr Ware-Lane said another of the highlights was the fierce competion, as there were 120 teams at the Weifang festival, from which they developed future relationships for the Cape Town festival.

“(The Chinese) do have a lot more competition – the crowds are also attracted to seeing the biggest kites. One of the most amazing was one which was a long dragon which stretched 100m.

“It really was quite something to see it taking off from the beach at Weifang.”

While Mr Ware-Lane and his wife have been invited to take part in next year’s festival there, Mr Ware-Lane says their current focus is getting ready for the the kite festival in Muizenberg, which takes place this year on Saturday and Sunday October 29 and 30. For more information go to www. capementalhealth.co.za/kite