Museum Official as Catalyst: Bringing Maori Kites Back to Life

Ben Ruhe
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Having become interested in kites because of an exhibition, workshop and festival organized by the lively museum he directed in a town near Wellington, New Zealander Bob Maysmor found himself organizing a national kite association in the mid-80s.

Rather he co-founded it. Peter Lynn, the renowned kitemaker, was a guest at the fly. “Peter and I lay on our backs flying, as gentlemen do,” recalls Maysmor, and the talk turned to setting up a national organization. “Peter handed me a $100 bill as a gesture of support. He appeared on television that night and told viewers, if they were interested, to write a given address. It was mine of course. Outmaneuvered! Two hundred and eighty letters arrived and this led to 35 paying members of the proposed new association. We were launched.”

Maysmor was invited with other New Zealanders to an early kite festival in Weifang, China. He made a 45-foot serpent kite and instructed a Chinese acquaintance to put a friendship message on the kite, writing in Mandarin. The Chinese man obliged with, as Bob later learned, these words: “New Zealand-China, 2 nations, 10,000 years of friendship and happiness.” The startling rewriting of history as to the Down Under country’s age proved a winner when Bob was given the honor of flying his kite first in a large stadium. “There was a massive roar from the enormous crowd, TV coverage was huge.”

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