Briefly on Swedish Kite History

Olle Nessle

Kite flying in Sweden does not have a long history. The first kites were probably brought from China together with spices, china and silk material in the 18th century and were regarded as exotic toys. The earliest reference to a kite that I have been able to find is in a poem by the Swedish poet Frans Michael Franzén (1772 - 1847):

"Thus soars, for how long (these were her words)
My soul between heaven and earth?"

He, who had drawn it, surmised
A presentiment fright as it flew,
And hastily turned round to face her
Then the string was snatched from his hand.
Gone was the sheet - it was nowhere to find;
Pale he stood and looked at his friend.


"An image from life of mankind!"
The father stated to this:
"A sheet has been given to all,
To take to the gale in a struggle.
With your eye to the highest, don't let go,
Even so if you fall: Just raise again."

During the end of the 19th century kites were used in Sweden, like in many other countries, for scientific experiments and meterological observations, but otherwise they were not common, not even as toys.

Sure there are a number of drawings of imaginative kite designs from the late 19th and early 20th century in the archives of Svenska Patentverket (Swedish Patent Bureau), but still kite flying was a rather rare activity. If any kites at all were built, these were of the diamond type, made from coarse paper with long tails that childen in the windy parts of the country played with during springs and autumns.

In 1965 the Swedish film director Bo Widerberg made a film entitled Kärlek '65 (Love '65). In this film about one third of the story is about people who build and fly kites. The same year the Art School in Stockholm arranged their first Kite Festival, which has been arranged every year since then. This Kite Festival is thus more than 30 years, and probably the oldest in Europe.

Even if kite flying is comparatively rare in Sweden it has become more common over the last decade. There are a few local kite organizations, one of them has a nationwide cover and issues an information flyer a few times a year. Kite festivals are arranged annualy in a number of Swedish cities, and some of the Swedish kite flyers have experienced an international appreciation for their kites on kite festivals in Europe as well as in Asia.

Sport kites are far from as popular in Sweden as they are in other countries. (Even though there is a Swedish branch of STACK). It seems that one line is enough for most people.

Those few who regularily build kites are mostly interested in the means and opportunities of visual expression through a kite, and many experimental and artistically interesting kites are built. This is probably due to the fact that the Art School in Stockholm has been the most important meeting-place for the Swedish kite enthusiasts. Another source of inspiration for original creations is the artist Curt Asker (nowadays living in Paris and Provence), who during the 70's and 80's created a series of tremendously beautiful and unique kites.