Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Kite Sellers

To her credit, Natalie found the kite shop first. Over dinner one evening, she told the group about Phalawan Kareem's shop in the old city and described the kites, from incredibly simple sheets of plastic molded into flying shape by a pair of crossed sticks to the elaborate tissue-paper affairs he had supplied as props in The Kite Runner. I took a copy of his business card and made plans with my roommate Solmaz to visit a few days later.

The "Kite Runner shop" sits among a city block of kite-sellers in the neighborhood of Jadeh Maiwand, the city center for flying paper toys, as they are called in Dari. As Solmaz and I said our "salaams," I noticed the framed photographs and newspaper articles perched above the spools of string and stacks of delicate finished kites both small and large. The edges of the open storefront and the low ceiling displayed oversized, elaborately-decorated but eminently airworthy models each marked with a scorpion logo - the mark of Noor Agha. Profiled in Time and written about by Reuters, Noor Agha designs and makes the most beautiful - and the most responsive - fighting kites in Afghanistan today.

Though these flying canvasses decorate the shop, its primary sales are in small children's models made of simpler tissue-paper patterns and even plastic models. They hang along the awning alongside wooden spools decorated with CDs and Bollywood stars.

I selected a mix of medium flying kites and larger Noor Agha designs while Phalawan Kareem told stories of his friends in NATO, his clients the movie producers, and the difficult Taliban years, when no kites could be flown. After helping load my delicate stack of purchases into a garbage bag, he threw in ten of the small paper kites as a gift, demonstrating how to tie the kite-string to the body for maximum flying control. Solmaz and I offered our thanks and returned home to test our new toys.

1 comment:

Sarah Tiggelaar said...

Many thanks for my very own kite! It sadly could not come with me to China, but when I return I look forward to using it, or at least decorating my wall :)