Design of Colibri Kites
The Skeleton - An altar in the sky
Since the majority of Latin American families are Catholic, the cross is an essential element of a funeral, mourning event.
The cross as the main skeleton of the kite is not only representative of an altar, but also the skeleton of a colibri bird seen from behind while flying.
The practical considerations for using a simple cross as the base shape of the kite are: 1. easy to make, anyone could learn how to make it, which makes it conveniently mass producible. 2. easy to fly, require only a small breeze to fly.
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The Red and White - Bloodline
To emphasize the mourning aspect of the kite, the colibri kites are printed on handmade paper that are slightly off white, and then tied with red threads. The color red is the color of blood, and white is a typical mourning color in many cultures. These two colors are chosen to amplify the soul-carrier quality of these kites.
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The Material - Emotional
The kite's skeleton is made with thin wood sticks; the kite's face is made with handmade paper, and then the kite is tied with red threads. In choosing the material, I avoided industrial, commercial materials like plastic and nylon fabric and chose paper and wood because their handmade quality make them more capable of carrying emotional substances. The fragile and vulnerable qualities of paper and wood coincide with the fragile lives of the migrants.
On a more practical thought, paper costs less, and are more light weight which is very helpful when flying. Handmade paper has more visible and enduring fibers so they are less likely to be torn apart by stronger winds, and more importantly, it also allows us to sew threads through the paper.
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The Face of the Kite
• the paths of migrants & colibri
A map of the major paths migrants take to cross the US-Mexico border is drawn as flight patterns of hummingbirds. Since hummingbirds are migratory birds that also move northward to the US, their paths overlap with that of the migrants'. The colibri is representative of the migrants, and their fragmented paths are a gesture to commemorate the courageous, life-threatening journeys.
• the location
Each of the colibri on the face of the kite represent an area that these dead migrants' remains are found. These locations are sorted into 6 most common locations, and are drawn on the kite as 6 colibri birds.
• the case number
Each kite is printed with a unique, encoded case number, which is representative of the identity of the unidentified migrant in the NamUS database. The location the remain was found is recorded on the kite's map as a colibri bird, highlighted with a red dot.
• the family connection
Each kite with a case number is then assigned to a family desperately waiting for their loved ones to return home. When they get the kite, they can involve in the kite-making process by sewing a path (that they imagine their loved ones took) to the point of the highlighted colibri, which is the location the unidentified migrant's body was found. The connection between the remains of an anonymous migrant and a migrant's family is made through this stitching process. Red thread represents the life-costing journey, as well as a way to lead the souls to home.
• The colibri
A species of hummingbirds bred in the family's home country is printed on the kite. This represents the name of the "migrant", connecting the anonymous remains to an identity they could belong to.
• The tail
Each family can further customize the colibri kite by making a tail for the kite. They can attach their loved one's clothes to the tail, or draw something he/she loved on the tail. In Latin American funeral, the objects that belonged to the deceased ones hold extra meaning because they are seen as the gateway for the souls to return home.