From Nepal to Pittsburgh: A Time for Kites

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Flickr/ Judith

The last days of September mark the end of the harvest Season in Nepal and the beginning of Dashain. During this 15 day long festival hundreds of vibrant kites fly above the city while both Nepalese and American rock music fill the air. The art of kite flying is international and, for many cultures, holds important symbolic value. For Nepal, kite flying brings the end of the harvest and is used as a means of bringing families together.

Katy Dement, a local artist and educator, has brought a piece of Nepal to Pittsburgh. Dashain, a Time for Kites is a collection of locally made kites that will be displayed at Assemble for the next month. The Unblurred First Friday art crawl, on September 4th, marked the opening of this show.

Julianna Bagwell/ Assemble

Julianna Bagwell/ Assemble

During the Spring of 2014, Dement began seeking out Nepalese students that could teach her how to make these traditional kites and ended up in Brashear High School’s ESL classroom surrounded by kids itching to start on this project. Throughout the year, Dement also worked with Nepalese refugees at the Larimer and Mt. Oliver Community Gardens to create these kites and explore block printing.

Although Dement had anticipated this to be an activity enjoyed primarily by kids, she found that many adults were interested and spent time creating beautiful kites. During one of the workshops, a group of men made kites and started looking for glass that they could work into the strings. This practice is used for kite fighting, a competitive activity that is commonly associated with these traditional kite festivals in which the abrasive kite strings are used to cut the strings of other kites.

Dement first became interested in Nepalese kite making when a friend of hers visited the country. But her plan to spend time in Nepal came to a halt after the devastating earthquake in April of 2015.

Because Dement never made it to Nepal she was able to seek out refugees in Pittsburgh looking for something reminiscent of their home. These workshops provided a place for artistic expression that served the same purpose kite festivals have in Nepal for centuries, bringing communities together.