They’re not toys: they’re like modern txt msgs, as Hayley Hannan discovers.
Arms raised, clutching reels of yarn in both hands above their heads, Lisi Malu and Tydal Harriman steady themselves. On a count of “1, 2, 3” the girls run. Two kites soar into the air, flapping madly in the strong wind.
The Te Kura-a-iwi Ngati Whatua o Orakei students are practising their kite-flying skills for Manu Aute day at Orakei Marae. On July 2, for the Matariki celebrations, the sky will be filled with a mass of homemade and professional kites.
“Kites were like our text-messaging is nowadays,” explains Monique Pihema, one of the marae organisers. “Kites were used to send a message. They weren’t used all the time – they were used if an important message was to be relayed.”
Over 400 years ago, Ngati Whatua o Orakei used different sized and shaped kites to pass on important information, such as an incoming war party or to indicate sickness or a death.
“The area had dense bush so you couldn’t see things at ground level. So the kites were up high so everyone could see the signal.”
The simple structures also hold a special significance at Matariki.
“They’re a spiritual thing. The kites were seen as a connection from the heavens and the earth.”
Kite enthusiasts will attempt to recreate these historic symbols at the kite day. A basic structure has been chosen, so kids and adults can work together to make kites from toetoe and flax.
They’ll form a triangular frame with toetoe sticks and bind flax around it to form a flat surface across the inside. The bushy ends of the toetoe are natural decorations for the kite.
It takes an adult about an hour to finish a kite.
Around 2500 people came to last year’s event, says Ms Pihema.
“We could have more this year. We have one of the best venues for kite flying, especially on a day like today.”
It’s easy to see why. From the grassy point we’re standing on, the wind whipping our clothes and hair, you can see across Hauraki Gulf. The marae adjoins Bastion Pt, that refreshingly undeveloped expanse of green land with uninterrupted views.
The marae is also putting on a range of side events around the kite making and flying: kapa-haka, people learning waiata, face painting, weaving for adults and children, a hangi and kai stalls.