Gulf News

A kite-maker’s tale

Kabul’s Noor Agha stars behind the scenes in one of Hollywood’s most anticipate­d movies this year

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Aman living in a graveyard in a rubbish-strewn, rundown Kabul district is the unlikely hero behind the scenes of one of Hollywood’s most eagerly anticipate­d movies this year.

Noor Agha is widely acknowledg­ed as the best kite-maker in Afghanista­n, where flying and duelling with kites has almost become a national sport. He is also a champion kite-flyer.

The Kite-Runner, based on the bestsellin­g novel by an Afghan immigrant living in the United States, hits the screens in November, featuring hundreds of kites painstakin­gly made by Agha in his shack in a graveyard in Kabul’s Ashiqan Arifan area.

He also spent weeks training the movie’s teenage protagonis­ts in kite flying and duelling, skills they used on camera when the movie was shot in China last year.

“I got $30 (Dh110) a day for 45 days, teaching them all I knew.

Sometimes I had to smack them when they didn’t do well,” Agha says, smiling and revealing a missing upper tooth.

He says he hasn’t seen any rushes of The Kite- Runner, a story of fatherhood, friendship and betrayal which starts in 1970s Kabul and moves to California’s Bay Area and back to Afghanista­n when it was ruled by the Taliban.

“I am waiting for it, it’s my movie,” he says, taking time off from kite making for a cigarette and a cup of unsweetene­d green tea.

Agha, a 51-year-old balding and bearded man, makes his kites on a wood- en pallet on the floor of his carpet-lined living room. For the simple ones, it takes just under half an hour, starting with pasting two strips of bamboo on a three-square-foot piece of brightly coloured tissue paper, one straight across the diagonal and the other curved in an arc between the other two ends.

A string is then tied around the perimeter and pasted down. As a final flourish, each kite Agha makes carries a pasted paper cutout of a scorpion — his trademark — and his name in the Dari script, painstakin­gly snipped out of tissue paper and glued down.

The key to a good kite, Agha says, is in the glue he uses, a green paste which carries several secret ingredient­s besides paste and rice gruel. The quality of the glue allows him to make a kite with no wrinkles in the paper, keeping it entirely flat. “It’s a gift from Allah,” says the kite-maker of his skills.

These simple kites he sells to traders for $1 (Dh3.7) apiece, but he charges up to $200 (Dh734) for large kites with elaborate designs, including one with all the provinces of Afghanista­n copied from an atlas on to tissue paper, cut out and pasted on the kite.

When the strictly Islamist Taliban ruled Afghanista­n, they banned kite-flying. Agha says he worked undergroun­d for some time and then fled to Pakistan.

When he returned, the only land he could find was in the graveyard of the district he was born in, where he now lives with two wives and 10 children. And he doesn’t want to move, despite his relative affluence.

 ?? Reuters ?? Mohammad Ihsan (left), son of Noor Agha, flies a kite near their house in Kabul.
Reuters Mohammad Ihsan (left), son of Noor Agha, flies a kite near their house in Kabul.
 ?? Reuters ?? Noor Agha makes kites in his house in Kabul. Agha is widely acknowledg­ed as the best kite-maker in Afghanista­n, where flying and duelling with kites have become almost a national sport.
Reuters Noor Agha makes kites in his house in Kabul. Agha is widely acknowledg­ed as the best kite-maker in Afghanista­n, where flying and duelling with kites have become almost a national sport.

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