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Publication Date : 21-06-2012
Kite-flying has been a popular traditional game among local Bruneians for centuries. However, with today's aggressive modern technology and social development, the availability of more hi-tech games and a wider range of sports has left kite-playing to be overlooked, especially among Brunei's future generation.
These days, 'kikik' (a word for kite in the Brunei Malay language) is still quite popular among the local veterans. Seventy-two-year old Hj Masni Hj Md Husain speaks fondly of his memories of kite-playing as a young child.
"As a child, our free play time was filled with only one toy, the kite. Nowadays there are just too many toys, that's why the interest in kites is not so encouraging among young people," said Hj Masni in an interview with The Brunei Times.
According to Hj Masni, kite-playing was most favourable compared to all other traditional games at the time, including 'gasing' or traditional spinning tops.
"Even playing the gasing was not as popular as the kite. In those days, we played and made the kites ourselves. Even my parents encouraged it, I remember very clearly of one day when my father surprised me with a kite he hid under the food cover. When I said I was hungry, my father asked me to lift the food cover and I remembered feeling both happy and surprised," recalled Hj Masni fondly.
In the past, the kite frame was made out of either wood or bamboo, covered with paper or clothing. To stick all the materials together, people used 'ambuyat' or a paste made out of sago and water. Nowadays fiberglass has replaced the wooden or bamboo framework while sago gum has been replaced with commercial glue. Synthetic materials are also used instead of paper or clothing. A long string is then attached to the kite. There are still adults and children today who prefer to play with traditional paper kites than those made out of synthetic materials.
According to Hj Masni, Brunei's traditional kite is unique compared to other kites where both edges of the kite are curved rather than pointed.
Traditional kite-flying in Brunei is also more competitive where it is played to compete and duel rather than to just fly and show. The ability to duel or "kite-fight" depends on how well the kite is made which includes what type of wood or bamboo was used to ensure the balance of the kite when it is up in the air. The strength of the string and control of the kite from the ground are the main factors which determines the victory of the kite player who wins by attacking and cutting the string of other kites in the air.
"The one who manages to cut another person's kite in the air will celebrate while the losing kite-player would be disheartened," said sixty-one-year old Hj Basar Hj Bungsu, another kite-playing veteran.
In the past, to ensure the kite string can entangle and sever an opponent's kite string one would coat the top part of his string with ground glass and cooked tapioca flour making the string to be sharp and stiff. Today, people use imported strings made out of glass materials to ensure a better chance to compete with other kites.
Kite duels can still be seen today especially in open areas during sunny afternoons where the contenders are a mix of the young and the old joining in the light-hearted battles in the air.
"Our kite-duels are what makes kite-playing different in other countries. We don't play kites to compete whose is more attractive but we fly the kites to have friendly battles with each other," said Hj Basar Hj Bungsu.
Since the olden days kite-flying has always been more than just a game in Brunei. It was more often than not a duel among friends creating a good sporting atmosphere and bonding time among friends. The trend is still present today, though it is rarely seen.
The veteran kite players spoke to The Brunei Times on the last day of a motivational camp organised by Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and the Brunei Social Welfare Council (MKM) last weekend. Around fifty youths participated in the camp. The camp concluded with a session where the youths had the opportunity to learn from the elderly. Hj Basar and Hj Masni came in to teach the youths how to make kites.
Though kite-playing can still be seen in Brunei, it is no longer an active scene.
"Not many Bruneian youngsters are interested in playing the kites, even more so how to make the kites. These programs become an opportunity to share knowledge on local traditional games with the youths. It is important for them to know as it is part of the Malay culture too," said Hj Masni.
Hj Masni and Hj Basar are part of a kite society called PEKIKIK which has represented Brunei in kite shows around Asia such as Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Korea.