Kite-maker wants children to use their imagination

2019-10-22 06:00
Bobby Gathoo flies his kites to inspire the youth to also be creative. PHOTO: Sulize Terreblanche

Bobby Gathoo flies his kites to inspire the youth to also be creative. PHOTO: Sulize Terreblanche

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A 53-year-old Steenberg kite-enthusiast is preparing to show an extra special creation at the 25th Cape Town International Kite Festival, and he encourages children to learn the craft too.

Bobby Gathoo will be taking his signature, traditional, hand-made bamboo kites to the annual festival in Muizenberg on 26 and 27 October; for the 19th time. His passion for kite-making began at the age of five after finding inspiration from his family and his surroundings. “We grew up in a very poor neighbourhood and to see the beautiful kite creations from more affluent areas nearby – it was always so amazing for me. I couldn’t wait to make my own.”

He built his first kite from a piece of paper (pulled from a school exercise book), three matches and cotton from one of his mother’s reels.

His specialty is traditional, bamboo-frame kites covered with paper, plastic or material; which have won him several awards at the past kite festivals. While he personally prefers traditional kites, he says: “there are few craftsmen that have continued making bamboo kites.”

“The challenge with traditional kites is that they’re not collapsible, and prone to break.”

The craft allows the craftsmen – starting out as children – to become innovative thinkers.

“It encourages the youngsters to use it as a platform. When you’re younger, you’re more creative and imaginative. It should be introduced more at the schools,” he says, adding that the sport is still suitable for people of all ages.

He believes the craft is “medicinal and beneficial for your mental health”, because flyers are forced to look up, open their chests, take in the fresh air and vitamin D, enhancing their posture which would become poorer by doing activities such as sitting at a computer.

Gathoo is looking forward to the festival, and says he would not be able to do it without his wife, Vivian, who brainstorms designs with him and sews the fabrics to the frames.

He is currently creating a mystery kite that hasn’t been seen at any other kite events.

“It’s a rush now to get fabric – I’m using rip-stop polyester (parachute kite material),” says Gathoo.

He hopes that anyone with spare fabric from kite surfing would be willing to donate to his secretive new design.

Besides his passion, he does it for the children.

“It’s always so rewarding to see the children’s expressions when they look up and see a kite. Here in Steenberg, there’s only about two of us who fly kites. I want to impart what knowledge I have to the next generation.

“I want to leave something wonderful for the next generation, for them to improve and make something more spectacular.”

Event host and beneficiary, non-profit organisation Cape Mental Health, has been using kites to generate funds and raise awareness of mental wellness since 1994. The annual kite festival is the highlight of the annual October Mental Health Month campaign, which this year focuses on suicide awareness and prevention.

“With self-harm and suicide rates on the rise, we want to share a message of hope and encouragement,” said Dr Ingrid Daniels, director of Cape Mental Health and president-elect of the World Federation for Mental Health. “Just as kiters use a line to keep hold of their kites, hope can be the line to life. The important thing is to hold on and not let go.”

The festival will take place at Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve and tickets are available on Quicket or at the gate for R40 per person and R15 for children (12 years and younger). V Contact Greg Damster on 021 447 9040 or to assist Bobby with materials. Tickets are available at


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