By Nadia Ali. The trees are rustling, the Caribbean breezes are blowing and colourful kites soar into the blue of the sky. April is the month synonymous with kite flying in the Queen’s Park Savannah, Trinidad. Across in the sister isle of Tobago, December is the month that the annual Tobago Flying Colours Kite Festival occurs at the Plymouth Recreation Grounds. Both, however, are celebrated in true Trinbago style with a variety of entertainment, food and give-aways to create a wholesome family day out. Thousands of spectators flock to see hundreds of registered participants in the kite-flying competition. Kites of all shapes and sizes can be seen like my personal favorite the cheeky chong.
Historically, kites are said to have originated in China. The materials used to build the kites were silk and bamboo, but the exact date or the name of the inventor is unknown. The first kites flown in the Caribbean were mostly diamond shaped and made from cocoyea, flour paste as glue and copybook notebook paper. They were given a strange sounding name “cheeky chong”. These types of kites are very basic and simple to make. Students are usually taught how to make cheeky chong kites in school as their first attempt at kite-making.
The season for Cheeky chong
You can buy kites during the month of April from vendors, sometimes you may be lucky to see them selling the humble cheeky chong. Some sell the traditional hand-made kites typical of the Caribbean. These are diamond shaped, very colourful and come in various sizes. But, most vendors sell the factory-made plastic kites featuring popular cartoon characters.
For the kite flying contest in Trinidad all entries must be hand-made, so you cannot register with the factory-made ones. There are various categories and it is open to individuals and teams. The most interesting category, in my opinion, is the “Mad Bull”. It is a very large kite and I have seen kites that span 15 feet wide! There is great secrecy surrounding the design and size of these kites. Most entrants will keep the mad bull kites under cover until the competition begins, when they reveal their entry.
These monster kites take a team effort, not only to make it, but to fly too. Unlike the smaller kites where one person runs, loosens the string and tugs on it to make it fly, the mad bull is launched by several people running in unison. On one occasion, I was amazed to see a team attaching the rope of the mad bull onto a vehicle to launch it! Although, it did manage to take flight when it suddenly decided to nose-dive barrelling towards the Savannah, it sent everyone scampering to get out of its way.
The sight of hundreds of kites flying adds to the attraction of the Queen’s Park Savannah. The atmosphere is one of a family fun day and even if you go as a spectator there are kites on sale so you can fly a kite too. Once you get the hang of it and loosen enough string your kite will soar just like the others. There’s a feeling of achievement the higher it climbs, joining the colourful kites in the Caribbean sky.
April 2014 – Issue 9 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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