Kites from Kabul

Exhibition, Short read

Margaux Portron, Research and Communications Associate, Artraker.


Today I went to the exhibition “Kites from Kabul” at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

It consists in a display of kites and photos of kite-flying in Afghanistan. It is a strong tradition in this country, even in times of war. Kite-making and kite-flying are both about craft and art, skill and creativity. Children and adults put so much passion into them it actually is more of a combat sport, as you can see in this video:

It was a forbidden practice under the Taliban regime, for a reason I couldn’t find anywhere.

Maybe because of the colours and the sheer fun?

Handmade kites displayed at the V&A Museum of Childhood

Handmade kites displayed at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Source: Margaux Portron

I find it interesting that such practices take place in countries where the airspace is (or was, in the case of India under the British colonisation) otherwise constantly occupied by bomber planes and drones. As kites have been flying over Afghanistan for a century, it looks like what could be a reappropriation of the airspace.

Wonder Years, by Tabby.  Source:

Wonder Years, by Tabby.

However, I couldn’t help but notice the total absence of women and girls in the photos. I was suprised the curatorial text didn’t mention it was a masculine practice in Afghanistan (in India, from what I understood, girls participate). It is unfortunataly a rather tiny exhibition which lacks in historical and social context. It is nevertheless worth seeing for the beautiful photos and handmade kites.

Photos taken in 2014 and 2015 by Andrew Quilty

Photos taken in 2014 and 2015 by Andrew Quilty. Source: Margaux Portron

“Turquoise Mountain has been working in Afghanistan since 2006 to revive historic areas and traditional crafts, and has restored over 100 historic and community buildings in the Murad Khani district of Kabul. It has also set up the Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, which trains hundreds of young Afghans in traditional arts and crafts. The kites in this display are the result of a collaboration between the children of Murad Khani and students from the Institute.” 

V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA Admission free. Open daily: 10.00 – 17.45, last admission 17.30 Nearest tube: Bethnal Green. Tel: 020 8983 5200

Also on the subject: The Kite Runner, a book by Khaled Hosseini, adapted into a film by Marc Forster. 


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