Kite ‘ambassadors’ off to China


Ashley and Marie Ware-Lane of Brackenfell will be taking the expression “go fly a kite” to new levels when they embark on a journey to China today, Wednesday April 13.

Their journey will see them fly to Beijing and then travel to Weifang in Shandong Province, where they will take part in the 33rd Weifang Kite Festival from Saturday April 16 to Monday April 18. For the couple, as they told a small group gathered for their send-off at the Cape Mental Health offices in Observatory on Monday, it will be a “dream come true” as they are passionate about anything and everything to do with kites.

At the festival, not only will thousands of people from all over the world gather to set their kites high up in the skies, but there will be an extraordinary occurrence of the “Ten-thousand People Kite-flying Performance”.

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS), in partnership with Cape Mental Health are responsible for sending off the two kiters, who got interested in flying their home-made kites more than 10 years ago (“Flying high with kites,” Northern News, October 21).Not only will they take part in the festival in Weifang, but also in the Beijing Kite Festival.

As Bennett Bailey, deputy director of the DCAS, said at the send-off, “DCAS has an ongoing partnership with the Shandong Sports Bureau in China. Through this partnership, local athletes are given the opportunity to take part in sporting events in China, while the Western Cape also hosts Chinese athletes.”

An excited Ashley said for him “this was the opportunity of a lifetime”.

“Weifang is where they first flew kites from and as an adviser to the kite festival held in Muizenberg, part of my function is to invite international kite-flyers here. So to meet them in China will be amazing”.

His wife Marie said China had always been one of the places she had dreamed of visiting.

“We can also learn so much from the kiters there. Kiting is such a passion for us. We spend long hours making them as we work full-time and when you make a kite and then you take that kite up, you feel so proud.

“To see the smile on kids’ faces when the kites become airborne is just something else,” she said.

Mr Bailey, said sending the Ware-Lanes to China is “a match made in heaven”.

“This is the kind of reciprocal relationship we want,” he added.

Weifang is known as the kite capital of the world and people consider it to be the birthplace of kites. Each spring, people in the city fly kites as a leisure outdoor activity.

Amelia Jones, the president of Cape Mental Health said the couple would not only be ambassadors but pioneering ambassadors. “You are carrying all our dreams,” she told them.

The director of Cape Mental Health, Ingrid Daniels said, “Our kiting advisors will show the world how we use the symbol of the kite as a message of hope for people with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities.

“Our Cape Town International Kite Festival has become the biggest mental health awareness event in South Africa, and has been raising funds and awareness for more than two decades.” The Ware-Lanes started making kites in 2003 when they gave their son a kite for his birthday and, because he wasn’t interested in flying it, they started nurturing a new hobby.

In 2011 they started making kites themselves. And so that neither feels left out, they each make their own, and even have two sewing machines, so they can sit in companionable silence, whirring away as they put together their kites.

The lounge and kitchen of their home just off Frans Conradie Drive, is covered with all manner of kite equipment.

They have more than 100 kites, and proudly enumerate some of their favourites. “There are parrots, crocs, seals, penguins, ladybugs, turtles and fish. There’s a big red inflatable teddy bear that’s 7m long; and a scary-looking ‘Blue meanie’,” says Ashley.

A good kite, according to the couple, aside from its technical soundness and durability, must be visually attractive and have eye-catching colours.

Over the years they have garnered great knowledge about the wind patterns and the “Cape Doctor” as well as other directional winds that sweep through the Peninsula. They have a wind meter (called an anemometer) and know every type of string. These days most of it is polyester braid or nylon lines, which are very strong.

The couple will have new things to learn in China, like the wind patterns there, but they will be taking some of their favourite kites with them, like their 7m Nemo, a firm contender in previous festivals. And they will be flying all their kites high for South Africa.