COVID-19 restrictions hamper kite flying tradition in Guyana

A scene from the Seawall in Guyana in 2018, where holiday makers raised their kites on Easter Monday.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Easter is one of the most observed holidays on the calendar in Guyana and the Caribbean, and a time of the year especially sacred for Christians who observe the resurrection of Christ.

But the most exciting, is Easter Monday, a day set aside by families to get together and fly their kites on the popular Sea Wall overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, many others taking trips across the country for picnics and sightseeing.

There is an anticipation leading up to the holiday season where kite makers layout their colorful designs at street corners, so starry-eyed children can pick and chose for their memorable experience of kite flying.

Unfortunately, the fun season for a second year in a row has been crippled by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The festivities which normally attract thousands to the Sea Wall, the National Park, playgrounds, lakes, and resorts were halted due to the ongoing strict safety put in place, leaving citizens to raise their kites from backyards.

The National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) put all protocols in place to ensure the safety of citizens, blocking off the Sea Wall and all recreational spaces, and enforced by the Guyana Police Force.

Avid kite flyer Tangerine Clarke used her backyard to raise a Starpoint kite on Easter Monday, April 5, due to COVID-19 restrictions put in place by the Guyana National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF).

But Guyanese nationals who returned home for the season were not fazed by the temporary setback. As a matter of fact, they were eager to reminisced about this cherished pastime, and what it meant to them growing up in Guyana and celebrating their Easter Monday.

Phillipa Morrish, an etiquette consultant, for one, said memories are what matters the most to her.

She said Easter 2021 was eagerly anticipated as it was going to be her first Easter Monday in Guyana after many years.

“COVID-19 affected kite flying crowds in Guyana as it did in other parts of the world, but it cannot tamper with my childhood memories of kite making. I remember ripping out pages from my old ‘exercise’ book, taking two ‘pointer sticks’ from my mother’s broom, making a tail from a piece of floor cloth, and a piece of twine to send my kite flying into the air,” she recalled.

She mused, that she later graduated to a more expensive version, using kite paper, “glamma” cherry paste, and a razor blade at the end of the tail to “cut away” any other kites that dared to get too close. By the time I was in high school, I exchanged kite flying for dressing up and going to a 1:00 show at Astor cinema. Now I am a senior and back to being excited about kite flying. I guess the “once a man, twice a child” adage is true, quipped Morrish.

Actress, Ingrid Griffith reflected on the good old days with her siblings saying, “I remember us readying our kites, preparing different color cheese sandwiches and packing baked goods, and Cream Soda the night before, deciding what the Easter Monday outfit would be from the barrel my parents sent from the US.”

“I remember our kites flying away, not staying up, falling apart, kite flying drama,” said Griffith, who recalled groups of families “sitting all around us, the music, exuberant voices, kids in matching outfits, the sound of the bells from the various “snow cone” carts, the competing voices of vendors selling their wares, oh, the breeze… and my kite going way, way up and staying up.”

Getting dressed up for church in their Sunday best, is a lasting memory for writer, Brenda Richards and her siblings, who always hurried home to change into kite flying clothes before heading off to the Sea Wall to fly their kites.

Her beautiful homemade kite made by her brother, soared majestically then suddenly came tumbling down from the sky because “some terrible kid had a razor on his kite to take down the ones that looked better and soared higher than his,” she recalled, and quipped, in creole, “all skin teeth nah laff.” “This was the same kid who befriended us so he could get close enough to sabotage our kite,” she remembered.

Educator Francis Yvonne Jackson in turn, said as a kid growing up in Guyana she was taught that kite flying symbolizes Christ is risen, “which we Christians believe and celebrate.”

“I remember the use of “glamma” cherries, wooden frames, color tissue paper, a ball of twine, and a fabric tail, all supplies that go into making the kite.”

“I also remember the preparation of our picnic baskets with food and an assortment of goodies when we spend the day at the Sea Wall, among other kite flyers.”

“It was such a lovely time to enjoy. I migrated 57 years ago, but I can say what Easter Monday is like now, as compared to back then,” she opined.

“When I tell people of the symbolism of kite flying in Guyana, as a Catholic, it was Christ has risen! The holiday was across religions. The sky was colorful and family picnics were fun,” said Denise Harris-Durant, a Guyanese-American.