By Siqi Yuan
“The shark is flying!” A kid with big, ocean blue eyes shouts out while jumping on the beach. Her blonde hair dances around as she is points at a big shark.
What is happening in the sky? A huge bat hovers over a huge black whale, and blue whale, and yellow octopus. All of them are making a flight of steps to heaven. Dozens of arrows with tails measuring up to a hundred metres point in the same direction, and their tails are dancing with the wind. The sky is alive.
This is the Festival of the Winds.
“Such a long queue, isn’t it?” a girl says to her bodyguard boyfriend who has big muscles and tattoos. Yes, it is. Many buses regularly shunt people from Bondi Junction to the beach so the queues grow. But no-one looks unhappy. Nothing stops the kites flying.
Thousands of people are on the beach – Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabs, Indians, Americans, Europeans, Brazilians, South Africans, Australians. They colour the beach like kites colour the sky. They speak different languages, they believe in different gods, and they come to Sydney for different reasons. But they have something in common – they are dressed in comfortable clothes and standing on the beach with bare feet. Many are flying kites.
As Joanna Dinning, an organiser of the festival, says, “When you fly a kite, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what you look like, if you’re smart or not, rich or poor, kids or old people, everyone flies a kite. Everyone is welcome to join together, and mix together as a community.”
They first meet each other running towards the waves together, making sand castles together, drinking coffee together, relaxing, laughing, flying kites. It’s a community of the global village.
Multi-culturalism is always the theme of the festival, and it will always be. Ms Dinning says that back in 1978, the State Government celebrated the year of multi-culturalism, and from then on, every year the Festival of the Winds has had a multi-cultural focus.
This year professional Australian and international kite-flyers gather in Sydney ready for a game. The whales, the octopus, the huge Chinese dragons, the Japanese fishes, sharks, bats, aliens, arrows, they are not here just for fun, they are also here to show their profession flying skills.
“Beach, wind – a perfect place to fly kites,” says Dianne Delli Paoli, a professional flyer and kite-maker with 27 years experience. She announces the beginning of the game.
The aliens come out of nowhere, and then the batmen come to the rescue. Two armies are ready for a fight to the death. Watch out! One alien is falling from the sky! The batmen temporarily dominate the sky. But this is not the only battle. The red Chinese dragon and the black Japanese fighting fish thrust up into the sky and into combat.
Meanwhile, fat whales and octopus swim slowly together, trying to soar with the seagulls, but they are too fat to catch up with them. The seagulls slice through them, showing off their flying skills. And speaking of showing off, two pink birds with 50 metre-long tails dance dance around one another, like a couple dancing tango. The watchers on the beach are enthralled.
Around the Pavilion, a man in gold beats a drum, a girl in a chicken mask dances, a bald man plays with fire, his partner plays the violin, two women play clarinets. People are eating Mexican warps, Chinese dumplings, American hotdogs. Children visit the farmyard enclosure and play with calves, rabbits and lambs. Or they make kites in the kite-making workshops.
“This great, colourful event brings people together from afar,” Joanna Dinning says. “They forget their anxieties, they make friends. This festival is about harmony and happiness.”
This is the magic of the winds.