Sky the limit for best made Swaeltjies

Bobby Gathoo of Steenberg.

Local kite-makers have their chance to reach for the skies in the Heritage Kite Competition, taking place during the 22nd Cape Town International Kite Festival, in Muizenberg, on Saturday October 29 and Sunday October 30.

Judges are looking for the best locally-made, hand-crafted kites with prizes for the best Swaeltjies as well as home-made kites of any shape.

Traditional Swaeltjies, also known as Cape Swallow or bat kites, are thought to have come to Africa with immigrants from Malaysia and Indonesia several centuries ago.

The design has been passed down through generations.

Master kite-makers Ebrahim Sambo, from Athlone, Gerald Gelderbloem, from Parkwood Estate and Bobby Gathoo from Steenberg, will be sharing the kite-making skills they learnt from their fathers and grandfathers at free, daily kite-making workshops.

Mr Sambo has been making kites since he was five years old. He was taught by his grandfather, who had been taught by his father.

Mr Sambo, who taught his children and grandchildren the art, has partnered with Cape Mental Health, the organiser and beneficiary of the annual kite festival, to revive the historic kite-making tradition.

Free Swaeltjie workshops are available on both days of the Kite Festival, teaching adults and children how to make the traditional, swallow-shaped kites made from bamboo, paper or material.

“As a kid living in District Six I remember the sky full of these kites,” says Mr Sambo. The winners of the Heritage Kite Competition can win cash prizes with R1 000 for 1st place, R500 for 2nd and R300 for 3rd for the best Swaeltjies and R500 prize money in the Open category.

The free Swaeltjie kite-making workshops are at 10.30am on Saturday and Sunday, and the Heritage Kite Competition starts at 1.30pm on Sunday October 30.

The Swaeltjie workshops and Heritage Competition have been funded by the Arts, Culture and National Heritage Sector of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), in order to help protect and promote traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. The Cape Town International Kite Festival happens on the lawns of Zandvlei Nature Reserve, corner Axminster and The Row, Muizenberg, from 10am to 6pm daily. Entry is R30 and R10 for children under 12. For details and entry forms visit or contact Cape Mental Health on 021 447 9040 or