May 11, 2015
Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins
With buildings, power lines and trees, Jakarta isn’t exactly suited to kite flying, but our Indonesian Heritage Society group enjoyed the next best thing: A trip to Layang Layang (Kite) Museum. Founded in 2003, it is the inspiration of Endang W. Puspoyo, who has been a longtime kite enthusiast. In fact, she was preparing for the next kite festival when we chatted. The grounds are a quiet, shady respite from the hectic city, and the day we visited, they swarmed with eager school children learning kite history.
Claims of inventing the kite are tied to China 3000 years ago, but are disputed by cave paintings in Indonesia. Either way, the kite has served as a research tool, fishing aid, and means of war time correspondence over the years. Some kites battle for excitement with glass-embedded strings that cut the other free to win. A kite’s ancient roots even find application in modern aviation. Still, a kite’s happiest moments have been as a leisure time activity. It requires little expense, materials or expertise to launch a piece of art that dances on the wind.
Like the pleasures of a kite, the museum is a bargain at Rp. 10,000. The entrance includes a video of kite history and guided admission to a jam-packed building of historical displays. Kites have a special significance in Asia and unique designs, materials and colors can be noted in the various regions. The vintage exhibits feature Indonesia and beyond, like the bridal duo from Kalimantan and miniature models from China that really do catch a breeze. The variety boasts a 150-meter long dragon, boxy lion fish, dragonfly, sailing ship and jellyfish with tentacles. The museum building is an East Java house moved to the site and adds to the longstanding history of kites in Asia.
Nowadays, there are fighting and stunt kites, 3-D models and mammoth endeavors that take teams of 20 to launch. The Bali Kite Festival is one of the most well-known spectacles. If you can’t make it to the annual event, visit Layang Layang Museum instead.
For a small fee, guests can take a personally painted kite home as well. Our group created standard wing designs with wild images. It was a happy day of creativity. We were like Indonesian children, who sing about cutting a reed with a knife to make a kite:
“Ku ambil buluh sebatang, ku potong sama panjang … Ku raut dan ku timbang dengan benang, ku jadikan layang-layang.”
Layang Layang Museum:
Open Monday – Sunday at 09:00 to 17:00 (except national holidays)
Jl.H. Kamang No. 38
Pondok Labu, Jakarta 12450
Tel: 6221-765 8075 or 6221-7590 4863
Gail G. Collins writers internationally for magazines and has co-written two books on expatriate life. She feels writing is the perfect excuse to talk to strangers and know the world around her better.