Soaring traditions
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Soaring traditions

Iconsiam is breathing new life into kite-flying with an artistic twist

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
Soaring traditions
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Flying kites used to be a popular activity enjoyed during summer. However, with fewer open spaces this activity has been slowly disappearing. Fortunately, Iconsiam has collaborated with the Ministry of Culture, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Association of Thai and International Kites to organise "Iconsiam Thailand's Kite Festival 2024". The event takes place at River Park in Iconsiam, next to the Chao Phraya River.

This year, the festival is organised under the theme "Embrace The Art Of The Sky" and features unique artwork on kites from four Thai artists -- Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, Phannapast Taychamaythakool, Kritpan Suvanwattanasuk and Sakkatarit Intaravisha.

The artists were excited to be a part of the event as it reminded them of their childhood. However, Sakkatarit, a 13-year-old NFT artist, is someone who has never flown kites before.

"I was thrilled to be a part of this event since it reminded me of times when I watched kites at Sanam Luang," Phannapast, a renowned illustrator said. "My father made a kite for me but it couldn't fly high because the paper was heavy, however, seeing kites always remind me of that moment. Drawing on a kite is something I've always wanted to do but never had the chance. Thus, when Iconsiam contacted me, it rekindled those old desires."

Wasinburee, artist and heir to Ratchaburi's legendary ceramic factory Tao Hong Tai, had a sparkle in his eyes when he spoke about flying kites. He described it as an activity that children in his neighbourhood eagerly awaited when he was young.

Phannapast Taychamaythakool with The Lion Of January.

"In the past, there weren't many toys. The areas next to the ceramic factory were rice fields, so we usually played football. In April, we couldn't wait to fly kites though. The kites we had were usually white, so we often drew symbols or wrote our names on them. When Iconsiam invited artists to draw on kites, it sparked a forgotten memory. I'm thrilled to finally fulfil a childhood dream. Additionally, flying kites by the riverside is a new experience for me unlike flying kites in rice fields," said Wasinburee.

Wasinburee's kite is called Flying Dot Dog, depicting his iconic ceramic sculpture I-Jud in pink flying in a blue sky with white clouds in the background. The artist explained that this is the first time I-Jud has appeared in 2D.

"I create art in a variety of mediums such as ceramics, sculptures and photography. However, most people recognise me for my work on I-Jud. This marks the first time I-Jud has been created as a two-dimensional drawing. Flying Dot Dog was inspired by my childhood fantasy. I had wondered if I tied balloons to myself, would it be possible to float away?"

Phannapast, an illustrator known for her unique and intricately detailed drawings, created The Lion Of January kite and envisioned it as a symbol of celebration.

Kritpan Suvanwattanasuk with Super Summer Time. 

"I wanted to create a kite that everyone would instantly recognise as mine. The Lion Of January is an image to celebrate the start of the new year. This time, the celebration takes to the sky. For me, a kite is like a canvas. Normally, paintings are displayed on walls, but this time people can see art floating in the sky. When I saw my illustration flying in the sky, I was thrilled," Phannapast said.

Kritpan, another artist with fond childhood memories of flying kites, created Super Summer Time. It depicts a hilarious cartoon character with big eyes, sticking its tongue out.

"Super Summer Time is a close-up view of a funny face," Kritpan explained. "I even included the Thai word ron, meaning hot, to capture the summer heat. Most art is displayed in a room with white lighting, but this artwork gets to soar through the sky. Since it is a moving artwork, it looks more alive. I am delighted to see my painting in the sky. The character's big eyes can be seen from afar. This makes viewers feel like they are making eye contact with the artwork."

Although Sakkatarit, the youngest artist, has never flown a kite before, he planned to give it a try at Iconsiam. Sakkatarit created the colourful piece Rapbit Man In The Sky and explained that the character on his kite is a rabbit.

Sakkatarit Intaravisha with Rapbit Man In The Sky.

"In my early years, I couldn't draw anything well except rabbits," Sakkatarit explained. "Rapbit is my own character and I decided to draw it with one dragon ear on the kite because this is the Year of the Dragon."

The event also showcases kites from four different regions of Thailand. Rungroj Phumaithong, a kite-fighting champion and craftsman, explained that the Association of Thai and International Kites aimed to gather kites from various regions.

The four regional kites include those from the North -- phra ruang and e-lum; Central Region -- puk pao, chula and e-phraed; Northeast -- dui dui and aek kites; and South -- crescent, buffalo and beramas kites.

Additionally, Rungroj will showcase a kite-fighting competition between chula and puk pao while Boontham Himsgool will fly chula kites.

Rungroj has known kites from a young age since his father is a kite-fighting champion and craftsman. When he was 11, he followed his father to watch a kite competition which sparked his interest. By observing his father, ­Rungroj learned the art of both making and flying kites. Although his father specialises in chula kites, Rungroj has a personal preference for the puk pao.

Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch with Flying Dot Dog.

"I prefer puk pao kites," Rungroj explained. "They require fewer players compared to the larger chula kites which have a centre larger than 200cm while puk pao kites are limited to a centre of 88cm or less. My dedication to kite-flying has resulted in many wins, but my most memorable prize is the gold cup I received from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in 1984."

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, kite competitions have been cancelled and have not been organised at all. This worries Rungroj who fears the tradition may disappear.

"There are discussions about holding a competition at Sanam Luang during Songkran, but I'm unsure if it will be approved," Rungroj says.

"Thai kites are a heritage passed down from our ancestors and they should continue to be a part of our culture. However, people who aren't interested in kites might not understand the importance of keeping this tradition alive."

"Iconsiam Thailand's Kite Festival 2024" runs at River Park in Iconsiam until April 8. Admission is free. For more information, visit Facebook: Iconsiam.

For video of this story, visit bangkokpost.com/video.

Rungroj Phumaithong, a kite-fighting champion. 

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