Bringing the skies to life with kaleidoscopic creations
Phil Hattingh’s first kite stirred in him dreams of flying. It was modest, made of cloth – a gift from his father when Hattingh was a young boy. If he wanted more, he had to make them himself. So at the age of five, Hattingh constructed a simple diamond structure that only lasted three flights. His skills progressively improved, and he sold his creations on a street corner. But Hattingh’s childhood love of kites never ended. For the past 30 years, he has been making kaleidoscopic aerial sculptures that reach astounding altitudes and travel the world, bringing whimsy back to the skies.
Hattingh hasn’t always been a kite maker. He’s been a teacher, a bikini designer, and has a diploma in Marine Biology. But kites are his calling. In the past three decades he has constructed thousands, creating them from the seaside town of Kommetjie. Hattingh’s kites are so popular he’s received orders from overseas. Some of his most incredible creations include vivid dragons, a 10-metre fish that journeyed to the Antarctic, and a train of 25 kites that flew to heights of 1 000 metres at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Hattingh’s son also has a love of kites, and together they made an arch that crossed the Orange River.
For Hattingh, kites aren’t simply some extended fun from childhood. Flying is in his blood. “When you take it out and put it in the wind, and suddenly it comes alive, there’s a kind of magic that happens,” Hattingh says. In many cultures, kites play an important spiritual role, their movement reminiscent of a prayer. Hattingh experiences it too. “It’s the dream and it’s the imagination that it sets free.”