Lines Between Heaven and Earth

Kite-flying has been part of India's heritage for thousands of years and Gujarat's principal city of Ahmedabad is at the heart of the region's kite culture. In January of 2006, associate professor of art Helen O'Leary and art instructor Sarah Schwartz journeyed to the Ahmedabad to attend the International Kite Festival, held in honor of the Hindu solstice holiday Makar Sankranti, also called Uttarayan. The metaphoric richness of kites, as well as the historical and visual parallels between India and O'Leary's native Ireland, inspired the artists to create The Kite Project: Uttarayan, their latest multimedia exhibition, which they debuted at The Dock Museum in County Leitrem, Ireland.

O' Leary remarks, "In particular, I was interested in the two nations' shared history as former British colonies. Kites are mere paper, fragile, very humble—a collage of fragments—much like the notion of colonialism itself." Comments Schwartz, "We were intrigued—in a post-colonial, post September 11th world—by different forms of battles, including these allegorical kite battles." Author Khaled Hosseini's bestselling novel The Kite Runner introduced many Westerners to the culture of kite fighting. The photos O'Leary and Schwartz shot on the streets of Ahmedabad capture the vibrancy of the kites—and the kite craftspeople—of Gujarat province and served as a continual source of inspiration for the artists. "These photos," they explain "are like our sketch books."

Helen O'Leary can be reached at hpo1@psu.edu, and Sarah Schwartz can be reached at ses32@psu.edu.

Last Updated January 31, 2006