In the 21st century age old traditions have been competing with video games, television, on line streaming services and smart phones. At times traditions seem to be loosing the battle. But scattered here and they are special places, living time capsules.
Just such a gem is located on Di’anmen West Avenue in Beijing, China. Indicative of its revered status the little store is designated a national cultural heritage site.
This quaint little kite shop has been in business for more than one hundred years. It is the only remaining kite store in the capital. Liu Bin is the fourth generation steward of the Sanshizhai kite store.
Sanshizhai kite originally created stylish and colorful kites for nobility and royalty. At this store the nearly lost art of making royal kite is preserved. The craftsman working at the store begin with hand selected moso bamboo dried in a shaded portico for three years.
Equal care is given to the selection of paper. Artisans use an ancient type of past painting to create patterns and designs of cultural symbols rooted in antiquity. The finished products are more than mere kites. They are works of art that blur the line between past and present.
Another such treasure is to be found in Bengaluru, the capital of India’s Karnataka state. On vibrant, bustling Old Market Road lined with shops and stalls, Shop No 84, Barkath Kite Centre, stands out. The walls are lined with shelves packed with colorful fabrics and papers. The ceiling is adorned with an array of bright kites. This the city’s first and oldest custom kite vendor.
The proprietor is Shabir Hussein. In an interview given several years ago Hussein said, “In the early 1960s, my father, Murkhuda Khan, went to Bombay to look for a job as there were nine of us siblings he had to support. After struggling for three months he came up on a kite dealer in Dongri named Haji Shaban. Shaban, who was also in need of an assistant, hired my father. It was under his apprenticeship that he learnt the art of making kites.”
This a family business. It is also a business that continues to grow in popularity. The store now sells wholesale kites to dealers in Mumbai, Tamil Nadu and other Indian cities. And yet all kites are handmade.
The family, however, does more than keep traditions alive by making kites. Under his fathers watchful eye, Shabir made his first kite when he was eleven years old. And he entered competitions.
Shabir followed in his fathers footsteps and taught Hanif Hussein, his son, to make kites. He also instilled in him a passion for to fly kites. Hanif enters numerous festivals, and has claimed gold and silver prizes in state level competions.
The growing popularity of video games has curtailed sales in recent years. But the family labors on. Today, in addition to traditional art work they make kites adorned with political figures, anime characters, cartoon characters, sports celebrities and movie stars.
In Bullhead City along the Colorado River, Tumbleweeds & Tarantulas is also carrying on traditions. IN western Arizona this is your one stop shop for all things kite related.
Written by Jim Hinckley’s America