Oh wau!: Palas leaf kite-making is a forgotten Malaysian tradition


By AGENCY

Traditional kite-maker Pak Non says wau kites made from palas leaves are more durable and don't damage as easily as paper ones. Photo: Bernama

The 73-year-old Samat Man, better known as Pak Non, is probably one of the few living experts of traditional kite or wau-making in the country – especially the ones made of palas leaves.

While working on making a "wau helang" (eagle kite) from palas leaves in his home workshop in Kampung Tok Kaya, Perlis, Pak Non takes breaks to play on his violin while singing Itik Pulang Petang.

He said he picked up the art of making wau daun palas (palas leaf kite) in the 1970s from his grandfather.

"According to my Tok Wan (grandfather), the old folks in Perlis used to make kites using palas leaves because, back then, it was very difficult to obtain paper. "So, I asked my Tok Wan to teach me how to make wau daun palas, ” said Pak Non, who was named the Wau Master Craftsman (Adiguru) by Kraftangan Malaysia in 2018.

According to Pak Non, the process of making wau helang (most popular in the northern states) from the palas leaves was very complicated and would take longer time then the process to make a normal kite as it requires meticulousness starting from the process of drying, shaping, sewing the leaves and sticking them to the frame.

The palas leaves are stitched together by cotton threads and better fitted with sago glue, which is quite hard to find now. Photo: BernamaThe palas leaves are stitched together by cotton threads and better fitted with sago glue, which is quite hard to find now. Photo: Bernama

He said the most suitable palas leaves to use was the wild palas (palas jin) as they are bigger in size compared to other types of palas.

"The leaves must be dried for two days and ironed to reduce the wrinkles and to create a smooth surface, ” he said adding that kites made from palas leaves were more durable than those made of paper, which is easier damaged when in contact with water.

"I have observed that palas leaves do not break down quickly when exposed to water. The (palas) wau will also be more pliant than a paper one, ” he said, while placing the final piece on the wing.

He added the palas leaves were then stitched together by cotton threads and better fitted with sago glue, which is quite hard to find now.

Pak Non says he picked up the art of making wau daun palas (palas leaf kite) in the 1970s from his grandfather. Photo: BernamaPak Non says he picked up the art of making wau daun palas (palas leaf kite) in the 1970s from his grandfather. Photo: Bernama

Pak Non wishes to see a revival of the wau palas and is keen to give lessons if the younger generation are interested, to keep the tradition alive.

"I am ready to teach the younger generation who are interested in learning the technique of making palas leaf kites, as not to let this Malay heritage get lost with time, ” he said.

Kraftangan Malaysia Perlis branch director Ahmad Said confirms that based on oral records, people used to fashion kites out of palas leaves before paper became the go-to material.

He lauds the use of environmentally friendly materials in the production of wau and adds that through innovative use of these materials, they could add value to the wau-making process. - Bernama

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