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Jakarta Post

Flying a kite in Bali

  • Ron Jenkins

    The Jakarta Post

Denpasar   /   Sat, May 24, 2014   /  12:35 pm
Flying a kite in Bali Up, up and away: “We believe that those who fly kites are possessed by the wind,” says Yoka Sara. (Courtesy of Janggan)

Up, up and away: '€œWe believe that those who fly kites are possessed by the wind,'€ says Yoka Sara. (Courtesy of Janggan)

The film begins in the air. The camera looks down at the island of Bali from a kite'€™s point of view. Green fields. Blue seas.

A rainbow of colors on the beach where hundreds of people are gathered for a festival devoted to the art of flying a kite.

The aerial perspective is intoxicating, calling to mind the name of the patron spirit of kite flying in Bali, Rare Anggon.

Rare Anggon is a child whose name may be translated simply as Shepherd Boy, but could also mean '€œthe intoxication of childhood'€.

According to Anak Agung Yoka Sara, the producer of Janggan, a documentary about kites in Bali, adults who devote themselves to the art of kite flying can experience a return to the enchantments of childhood.

'€œWe believe that those who fly kites are possessed by the wind,'€ says Yoka Sara. '€œAnd in that blissful state anything they do will be forgiven, in the way that children are forgiven. It is a return to childhood.'€

Yoka Sara is the leader of a group based at Puri Gerenceng in Denpasar that builds janggan kites as wide as 7 meters and flies them in competitions throughout Bali. '€œOnce one of our kites crashed into a temple,'€ he recalls, '€œbut the priest forgave us because of the sacred traditions connected to kite flying.'€

An architect by trade Yoka Sara produced the film because he believes that people in Indonesia and abroad should learn more about the hard work, meticulous artistry and sacred traditions that are involved in sending kites skyward in Bali.

After finding a photograph from 1918 depicting two Balinese janggan kites, he found himself wondering what would be left of Balinese kites a hundred years from now. '€œFuture generations might forget how it is done,'€ he says. '€œThis film is a document that will preserve the heritage of kites in our culture.'€

Directed by Erick Est, a Sumatran who has lived in Bali for 15 years, the film documents the long hours of collective work required to send a giant kite into the air. '€œFirst, I had to learn how to make a kite myself,'€ explains Est. '€œI spent 8 months building a kite with Mr. Yoka Sara and his group. The experience gave me an appreciation of how a kite can bring a community together. They devote themselves completely to the work, forgetting their problems and differences in their pursuit of a common goal.'€


'€œWorking together to build and fly a kite requires enormous discipline,'€ agrees Yoko Sara. '€œI insist that the group focus only on the kites and nothing else. We don'€™t have any hooligans accompanying our kite to the competitions on motorcycles the way some other groups do. We don'€™t drink during the competition and we don'€™t play music. We just concentrate on the kite.'€

Concentration on the kite involves more than just putting the pieces of wood and cloth together. There are rituals involved in finding the proper kind of bamboo, cutting down the trees and imbuing the kite with a spirit that will give it life.

A pengatepen ceremony is performed when attaching the carved head of the kite to its body. In the case of Puri Gerenceng'€™s kite, the head is in the form of a dragon. '€œThe eyes of the dragon have to face forward, but not directly,'€ says Yoka Sara, explaining how this placement differentiates the dragon eyes from those of a bull or a bird. '€œIt is the same eye position that is used in the agem stance of a dancer to show pride and strength.'€

The precision of the kite'€™s construction is rooted in Yoka Sara'€™s training as an architect, guided by the traditional Balinese principles of asta kosala kosari.

'€œIn Balinese architecture we use slight imperfections to give life and movement to our constructions,'€ he continues. '€œWe never use a perfect three-by-three square, but instead make sure that one of the sides is 3.1 so the end result is not mechanical, but alive.'€

Although the mask of the dragon on Puri Gerenceng'€™s kite is designed to project pride, the art of the kite requires humility as well.

Because they fly over temples, kites in Bali must undergo a purification ceremony before they are sent aloft, in deference to the sacred objects beneath them.

'€œThe team of 50 people who fly the kite also have to be purified,'€ notes Yoka Sara. '€œPeople should be as polite as the kites.'€

Janggan is currently on screens in Bali. For more information, visit facebook.com/janggan.movie.