September … Rain is almost gone and winter is round the corner. Anyone visiting Wasukri Beach in Sai Buri district of the southernmost Thai province of Pattani would probably see the sky remarkably decorated with crescent kites. The unique design of a crescent kite is an excellent reflection of native Malays’ profound intelligence and aesthetic creativity.
Their method of making a crescent kite begins with obtaining an aged bamboo stem, which is readily available in the community. The bamboo stem is then split into thin sticks, which are polished and smoothened to form a crescent-shaped frame. The most essential tool used in this process is a smoothening knife known in Malay as a ‘saraho knife’. To flatten the bamboo nodes, the craftsman needs to file and sandpaper them to ensure a finely smooth surface. The processed sticks are then tied together with thread to make the kite’s frame. The next challenge is to balance both wings of the kite, commonly by aligning them with special papering techniques. This is a test of the craftsman’s expertise, which will ultimately determine whose kites will ride on higher winds.
In the local inhabitants’ view, a crescent kite is much more than a papered frame that flies. It manifests local folkloric beliefs through the exquisite Malay leaf-patterned motifs that spectacularly adorn the kite’s wingtips. The Malay crescent kite making craft is not grounded in any Western textbook, but it is based on the locals’ aerodynamic knowledge accumulated through countless trial and error, institutionalised as a cultural legacy and inherited from the previous to the present generation.