Lighthouse Now: Kites fly to remember the fallen

By November 2, 2015Remember

Seventy-five kites soared in the soccer field behind Bluenose Academy in Lunenburg on October 28, 2015. Students from that school and Centre Scolaire de la Rive-Sud flew them with members of the Armed Forces to remember the 158 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

For Warrant Officer Dave Battcock, it was a reminder of the Afghan children he watched fly kites on a rooftop during his service in Kabul.

Many considered kite flying the national pastime in Afghanistan, until it was outlawed by the Taliban in 1995.

“Being in Afghanistan, you knew the tie between the Taliban and the kites. And when the coalition forces started over there, the kites started going back to try and give them that idea of freedom. Freedom to be a child, to some extent,” said Battcock.

Artist Andrew Maize worked with Bluenose Academy students over five weeks to build 50 kites, and students from Rive-Sud arrived that day with 25 more.

The kite-making process was filmed for a video that will be shown during “Unsung Heroes,” a celebration of veterans from diverse backgrounds through music, spoken word and guest speakers, hosted by CBC Radio’s Louise Renault at St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg in November. The event was taped and broadcast on Eastlink TV on Remembrance Day.

The concept of the kite-flying project came to Maize after he lost a friend in Afghanistan days before he was scheduled to come home.

“I was in school, dealing with that loss from afar, not being able to be around family and friends and be part of that mourning,” he said. “So I was trying to bring that into my art practice, and thought about different ways of doing that.”

He wanted to create a memorial that people could participate in, and that didn’t need to stay in one place. He found the kind of hands-on activity he was looking for in Afghanistan’s kite-flying heritage.

“A kite is such a beautiful thing, because it’s really strong and powerful … but it’s also incredibly fragile and just hanging by a string. It’s sort of this extension from our bodies to the sky, so there’s a lot of really interesting moments there, and things to explore,” said Maize.

The kites will be on display at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic during Veterans’ Week.

Yvonne Mosley, member of the Unsung Heroes Collective behind the project, says the goal was to connect young people with soldiers who can share their first-hand experiences.

“We thought we could raise some awareness about veterans, and show that perhaps the veterans are not just old, there are newer veterans. Afghanistan was a 14 year sojourn in Canadian military life I’d say, and needs to be recognized,” said Mosley.

WO Battcock says it was important that he take the opportunity to show the students that the kind of sacrifices we remember on November 11 are still being made.

“There’s no veterans left from World War I, very few left from World War II, and as we transition … and move towards the Afghanistan era, it’s important the public continues to understand the importance of the veterans and the sacrifices that are made,” said Battcock.

Bluenose Academy student Nick Coleman drew a Canadian flag on his kite. It wasn’t flying as well as he would have liked that day, but it should fare better as a carry on when the Grade 9 student takes it with him to Ottawa next week.

“I’m going there because of cadets. It’s part of Encounters With Canada,” said Coleman. “The week of the Remembrance Day ceremony, I get to go and see the Terry Fox Centre, and I get to spend an evening with [singer Terry Kelly] who wrote ‘A Pittance of Time.’ I’m going to show him my kite. Well, first of all I’ve got to get it on the plane.”

EVAN BOWER PHOTO Students and soldiers went down the field side by side for a kite run.

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