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Regularly held between July and August, notably at the start of the windy season, the Bali Kites Festival is one of Bali’s major provincial calendar highlights presenting unique cultural scenes on par with the preceding Bali Arts Festival. The festival customarily takes place along the eastern coast of Padanggalak, just north of Sanur. Initiallly slated for Sunday, July 21 through Wednesday, July 24 this year, the 35th annual Bali Kite Festival has tentatively moved to 26-28 July and 11 August following favourable weather conditions. It gathers hundreds of competing kite troupes from all over the island flying traditional kites, alongside international teams with modern kites in various shapes and sizes.

What started off as a seasonal agrarian festival thanking the heavens for abundant crops and harvests, has become a competitive ground for communal ‘banjar’ youth groups who send their ‘sekaa layangan’ kite teams to participate and win prize money from sponsors. A competition is also usually held for ‘new creation’ kites, which may include detailed three-dimensional figures and unusual designs, from Hindu gods, cars and motorbikes, to mascots and brand sponsors. A gamelan orchestra accompanies each troupe, adding to the joyous spirit of the festival and the drama of take-off and landing sequences.

The Balinese traditional kites are gigantic and have evolved into increasingly bombastic proportions over the years, measuring up to four metres in width and 10 metres in length. Some other versions, such as the ‘janggan’ type have impressive flowing ribbon tails often reaching 100 metres or more in length. Jointly built at the communal ‘banjar’ village halls all over Bali, skilled youths, supervised by elders, craft bamboo frameworks for weeks up to the major event. Lightweight fabrics are selected according to an agreed-upon colour scheme and some are fitted with intricately carved heads. The final results await transport – usually by truck and requiring special escort along small Balinese roads – towards the Padanggalak Beach flying grounds.

The ‘bebean’ type is the most common design with a traditional outline of a fish, and is the common ‘giant kite’ of Bali that dominates the skies. The ‘janggan’ somewhat resembles birds with shorter and rounder wings and their long flowing ‘kedeber’ ribbon tails often outshine the kite’s body once airborne. In each competition, the task of assembling and flying the entailing ‘kedeber’ is major challenge for the piloting troupe that normally comprises a dozen or so boys and men. Categories to win include ‘best launch’, ‘best design’ and the ‘longest flight’. Occasionally, the kites descend over nearby rice paddies, and team members must dash through the coast onto the fields to retrieve the hard-earned and painstakingly built kite before it gets soaked.
Tag : Indonesia

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