Powell dreams of the day kites will again litter the sky
Calls are flooding in for the home-made kites Duvon Powell sells every year.
For a while he had been worried that Bermuda was losing its long-held Good Friday tradition – a combination of the social restrictions of Covid-19 and the hold electronics seem to have on many kids.
“I just made kites for the family and a couple of people around the neighbourhood [last year],” he said. “I probably made about ten.”
Determined to turn things around, he continued with his annual kite-making workshops at schools, clubs and churches. On Saturday, he will be at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art teaching children how to make a traditional Bermuda hummer.
“I guess because of Covid-19 we did not have the chance to be out there and fly kites last year or the year before. Now people are saying we finally have the opportunity to be out and celebrate Good Friday and fly,” said Mr Powell, who has this year received requests for 50 frames and 35 fully-made kites.
“It is nice to know that people still want to know our traditions. That is a good thing. It seems like a lot of exempt companies are buying the frames and paper as an activity for their staff to do.”
He comes from a large, kite-making family. His uncles Derek, Edwin, Leon, Nigel, Elystan, Brendan and Alan Lambert were well known in the Cobbs Hill and Khyber Pass areas of Warwick.
“They would make 30 or 40 kites every year and give them away to the children in the neighbourhood,” Mr Powell said, explaining how they put a kite string in his hand at age four.
“That was when I found my love for Bermuda kites,” he said. “They taught me the techniques. Then we had a competition each year, as I got older, to see who could make the most kites or the prettiest kites.”
The 51-year-old remembers how children once scrambled to be the first to put their kite in the sky.
“Everywhere you looked the whole sky was littered with them,” he said. “We would put our plastic bird kites up, first thing in the morning. Then when the family came in the afternoon we would put up our traditional kites up so the family could have a look at them.”
When he got older he carried on the tradition.
“When I was living at Rockaway in Southampton, me and my best friend used to make a big kite every year,” he said. “It was our tradition that we string the kite up beforehand, then we would stay up all night before Good Friday pasting it.”
In the morning there would be a large crowd waiting.
He remembers how a child one year begged to hold the string of a kite that had a strong pull.
“He went right up in the air. Good thing I had the rest of the string in my hands. That is how strong they are.”
This year, one of his daughters kicked a hole in one of his 7.5ft kites by mistake, just when he finished making it.
“I almost screamed the house down,” he said. “With a kite that size, you cannot just take out one patch and fix that. The way the patches are laid, the light colours go down first. If you bust a hole in a light colour, you have three or four other colours that you have to pull up first, before you can get to that light colour. She kicked a hole in one of the lightest colours on the kite. I had to pull up three or four other patches to get to that light colour.”
The repair took him 30 minutes.
“You can’t tell there was ever a problem,” he said.
He usually starts kite construction in February.
“At that time there isn’t much material around so I usually make my own sticks,” he said.
He has one customer who comes to him every year for a supersized kite.
“This year he wanted an 8ft but I said I would not be able to get the kite out of the house after it was made; my doorways aren’t that high,” Mr Powell said. “So he settled for 7.5ft. My wife is ready to get it out of the kitchen, because it is taking up too much space.”
Flying an extra large kite takes skill, he explained. And because they can be so strong when they are in the air, it is best to put construction nylon on them.
“They are no joke,” he said. “And they take a lot of tail. You will be ripping up sheets for ever. There would be miles and miles of tail.”
Mr Powell’s kites run from $35 to $700.
“I charge by the hour for those,” he said of his larger kites. “I can spend two weeks building one.”
Sign up for kite making with Duvon Powell at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art here: email@example.com. The class is open to children between the ages of 6 and 12 and takes place from 10am to 1pm. Admission is $45 for Masterworks members and $55 for non-members