‘Genius Beyond Genius’: Avant-Garde Taiwanese Kitemaker Is Aiming at a Global Reputation

Authors: 
Ben Ruhe
Article type: 
Journal

In a part of the world, Asia, where tradition still rules, Taiwanese kitemaker Buteo Huang is a brilliant exception. Having crafted the whole array of traditional Chinese kites as a kind of warmup, Buteo is now turning out avant-garde creations----many obvious masterpieces- ---that are winning him fame in the global kite world.

Buteo comes to kites with an unusual background. Trained as an architect in both East and West techniques and ideas, some very much opposed to one another, he launched a successful career as an interior designer. But after some years he became irked when his best ideas proved too advanced for his less imaginative customers, and he turned to kites full time so he could be in charge of his life. His work is now being promoted by the cultural exchange section of his government as evidence of a new, prosperous, trend-setting Taiwan. This is intended, and undoubtedly taken, as a thumb to the nose by mainland China, which considers Taiwan its own. Taiwan of course sees it very differently.

By now, Huang, 41, who started making kites in boyhood and never really stopped despite his schooling and interior decorating work, has a large, varied body of traditional Chinese work. It ranges from flat kites with images of birds, insects, and warriors to large centipede trains with elaborate dragon heads. Then through the Western canon-----a Bell tetrahedral (with an odd, crinkly black paper skin), a Wright brothers Flyer, a tri-wing Richthoven Red Baron. All of these with noteworthy artistry. His construction is intricate and ingenious, workmanship superb. Some of his elaborate kites come apart with the removal of a few bamboo pegs.

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