By Jim Miles
Kite flying activities go well beyond the physical phenomenon of wind blown materials flying tethered to their earth bound launchers. It is an activity including local knowledge of winds and landscapes, knowledge of how to physically shape the kite in order to have it fly. It is an activity that challenges the artistic creativity of the kite maker, a challenge to make the kite not only fly-worthy, but also decorative, and through that decoration, to make a statement from and about the flyer and kite maker. The statements can be several at a time, from simply being ‘I am the best kite maker and designer’ through the many nuances of challenging others to fly higher, or as in several Middle East regions, to challenge others in manipulating their kites to cut others down – the kite runners then chasing down the now freed kites.
And that is the ultimate statement from kites, a message of freedom. More specifically, the tension towards freedom, as the kite pulls with the promised freedom of the wind, the promise of freedom to fly above it all, to have the freedom of the birds, to be free to come and go wherever one is able to move. It is about the dreams of freedom, freedom lost to be regained. It is the physical metaphor through which the human spirit expresses its desire to be unbound from the earth, to be free of its trials and tribulations, the freedom from worries and cares of everyday life that for many occupy every moment of their existence.
Lajee Center – Aida Refugee Camp – West Bank
These images – the freedom of the birds, the freedom of the kite, the desire to be able to go home, that is expressed in Lajee Center’s latest production from its children, Flying Home. While it is a children’s story, it is also an adult story. For the children, it is a well expressed and well photographed story of a kite and its return home, just as the boy and his grandfather wish they could have their freedom. For the adults, for those that care about the children of the world, it provides the same message, ungarnished by the usual rhetoric of politics and beliefs. It is the basic yearning for human freedom, for a homeland, for a return to a homeland denied, all simply expressed through the metaphor of birds, kites, and wind.
The creators of the book express this desire in different terms on the back cover. One wishes to become a doctor “as I want all children to have a future.” They talk of land, space and freedom, but not only for themselves but for others, that the “children in the rest of the world can learn what this book means and understand our live in Palestine, and they can learn how to love their land.”
Given the chance and the openness for discussion, Flying Home can serve as a strong method to develop the message of freedom and homeland. It is a message that not only can serve the needs of expression of students, but is fully capable of opening dialogue and discussion among adults beyond their own inculcated views of the world, to be able to return to a more progressive world view beyond the often narrowed perceptions that develop with growing up.
The expression of freedom, the simple freedom of being able to go to a beach, test the wind and fly a kite attained a particular significance for the people of Gaza this past summer. In attempting to break the Guinness world record for group kite flying, the children and families of Gaza gathered on the beaches of Gaza and under regulated observation made the challenge to the record.
This attempt, as reported in Palestine Chronicle earlier, also carries the same dreams and aspirations of those of Lajee Center in Bethlehem. As reported by al-Jazeerah, this attempt allows the children under siege to “believe that despite the odds they face on a daily basis, they can be the best at whatever they want.” As with the message from Flying Home, their remains the broader message, the metaphor of freedom denied, freedom to be gained.
As of this writing, I checked with the Guinness World Record website and they have yet to post this record as adjudicated by the International Red Cross. While much could be read into this, it could be a simple matter of time lapse between verification and posting. But could it also be the denial of even the metaphor, the denial of freedom, the denial of even the dream of freedom? That message would at least be consistent with the expectations of the occupying forces that deny the physical freedom but find it impossible to quell the desire for peace, for a homeland, for the freedom to fly a kite and just play with the wind.
Ultimately, the dream of freedom cannot be denied. It will be passed on from generation to generation, from grandfather to grandson, fostered by the childhood innocence of flying kites.
– Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.