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Muna Island, Southeast-Sulawesi


planet. kite. matrix.


muna island

liang kobori
(kobori or kabhori cave)

the early ancient cave-kiteman

a story about possible prehistoric cavepaintings
showing a man flying a kite...


< drawing of the possible kite-picture by muna resident mr. LaSima ( taipei 2002)

drawing by mr. Tinton from kuala lumpur, who visited kobori cave in 2002 >


courtesy by w.bieck

wolfgang bieck from germany took photos of the muna cave paintings
and released them in german modelcraft magazine vth in dec.2002

visit wolfgang biecks new homepage with his story of the muna kitepainting - jan 2003


addition feb02, wolfgang bieck says the name of the cave is NOT "kobhori"
(?? - it was so written down by LaSima from muna... - maybe another proof of david wagners thesis of "relative reality of sulawesi" ? :-)
so - what then is the name?


drawing: tom

beside a structural unsharp computer interpretation.

height of the "cavekite-man" drawing is about 30cm.
[drawing © tomm 12-02]


march 2003, article in drachenfoundation-journal,
by ben ruhe


jan 2003. just received a message via wolfgang bieck:

Robert Bednarik, Convener, President and Editor, International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO) wrote:
I think that you can safely assume that your cave art is genuine, that it is not a modern fraudulent attempt to create such art. Concerning the age, it is certainly not possible without a microscopic examination by a specialist to say anything beyond that: the art is certainly much more than 6 years old. Finally, concerning the interpretation I cannot say anything. As a scientist I have no interest in interpretations except those of the indigenous people who would know the correct meaning of rock art. Interpretation by cultural outsiders, such as you or I, only reflects our own thought patterns and methods of visual perception. It is of no use in a scientific study. Besides, our knowledge of Indonesian rock art is very limited (I have worked there myself).

about rock art dating methods -


"drachen foundation" journal fall 2002 - [ pdf file only ]

Just How Old Is This Kite Cave Painting?
For several years now there has been talk in international kite circles of a primitive cave painting in Indonesia showing kite flying. The cave is on Muna Island, off the island of Sulawesi (formerly the Moluccas).
If it could be dated and was found to be ancient, the image might prove how old kites were in that part of the Melanesian world. It has long been believed by historians Clive Hart of England and Tal Streeter of the U.S. that the Chinese claim to the invention of the kite is invalid, that the kite is likely to be much, much older than previously thought and the Chinese argue.
The case for using a cave painting to date ephemeral primitive objects made of easily destroyed materials is made by the boomerang. Remains of returning boomerangs found preserved in a peat bog southwest of Adelaide in Australia date to 10,000 years before present; a missile stick (non-return boomerang) has been found in Europe and dated to 23,000 before present. Yet multiple cave paintings off the coast of Irian Jaya, survivors of Ice Age flooding and not all that far from Sulawesi, show return boomerangs and missile sticks that have now been dated to 30,000 years before present.
The kite cave painting it now turns out was viewed by Frenchman Philippe Cottenceau, accompanied by photographer Hans Silvester, in l999. This followed Cottenceau’s reconnaissance two years before in southeastern Sulawesi during which he explored the many old paintings in caves. Some show water buffalo fighting, a sport still practiced in that area today. Cottenceau was there studying the leaf kites made and flown in various parts of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. It is thought by scholars such as Hart and Streeter that these leaf kites---some quite big and having a natural dihedral so they need only some stiffening, bridling, and flying line to be perfectly flyable---are in fact the first kites known to man. They are still used for kite fishing in Oceania, being perfect for luring the shy, tasty needlefish, or gar, since they present the bait far away from the boat.
On their visit in ’99, Cottenceau and Silvester were guided to a small, almost inaccessible cave perched at the very top of a 250-yard cliff face on Muna Island. Climbing up, Cottenceau reports, was scary, getting down was terrifying. “I didn’t think I’d survive the climb down, I was scared to death,” says Cottenceau. “The climb is so dangerous it really requires mountain gear such as an axe and a belay rope.”
Cottenceau says the kite mural was a fairly rough outline drawing in ocher of what appeared to be a human figure flying a lozenge-shaped kite with tail. The more he thought of it later, the more he was convinced it was a kite that was depicted. But Cottenceau began to have doubts as to the age of the image. He said it was discovered just after his first visit to Muna two years before and that the style of the painting differed radically from that of the other cave images, indicating either a significantly earlier or, perhaps, quite modern provenance. Because Cottenceau had expressed so much interest in kites on his first visit, he wondered if this had not led to the painting being rendered specifically on his behalf.
Silvester made photographs of the image in connection with a long term kite book he is working on. As a professional, however, he is loath to afford advance viewing of his work. Fair enough.

With Indonesia dominated by Islam, further forays to Muna are for the time being obviously not in order for Westerners. So there the matter of the mystery kite image rests for the foreseeable future.


here an article about muna cave-kite
by bart van assen "nothing is certain"


September 12, 2002, from an article in Jakarta Post
written by Yusuf Susilo Hartono, about kite artist Sari Madjid

"Kagathi kites or leaf kites from Muna, Southeast Sulawesi also produce a buzzing sound and can drive away monkeys, which would otherwise harm the rice fields...

Sari .. will also announce to the international kite community that in Southeast Sulawesi a cave with pictures of kites on its walls has been discovered. The cave needs further study, but unfortunately Indonesia has yet to find a kite researcher.
This year Sari and her friends have set up the Indonesian Kite Society Foundation,
an organization expected to prepare some kite researchers in the country.


The cave paintings in Indonesia have been on the burner for some time.
Apparently they depict kite flying. Their main significance is that they
suggest that kites may have evolved in the Malay archipelago independently
of China, where it has always been assumed they were invented.

The ellipsoidal sail form in Indonesian and Malaysian kites is so
distinctive and different from any other Asian or Western kites that this
seems possible. The cave paintings could confirm this.

The toughest part has been to get an aware Western observer into the caves
to properly document the drawings. The Indonesian visitors always come back
with the wrong photos or put the wrong spin on their observations.
[ david wagner, sept 2002 ]


drawing by tomm

pic: henry prat

above, a computer drawing of the cavekite and a today "kagati" kite from muna


Last up date: 2000/09/03
written by David Wagner and produced by The Drachen Foundation
Because of this significance as the first form of man-made flight, the birthplace of the kite is still under scrutiny. It has been generally accepted that the kite was first invented in China long before the beginnings of written history. Recently, however, there has been sufficient evidence to suggest that it may have originated independently in the Malay Archipelago of Indonesia. There appears to be little written evidence from the earliest times, but by the fifteenth century, kites were so well established that contests were documented in the Malay Annals, an historical documentation of life in the islands.
These kites featured a wing structure that appears to be unique in form and structure. It does not fit in the established pattern of evolution that marks all other kites with their origin on China. Perhaps it was influenced by the exceptionally graceful sails of the Indonesian fishing boats. This structure apparently migrated to Malaysia and became the basis for their exquisite wau kites, beginning with the wau merak of Johore province. Many kites in the Philippines seem to have developed from this shape as well. Evidence may yet be forthcoming. Cave painting recently discovered in Muna, Indonesia, may depict kite flying in great antiquity. Photographs and carbon dating are soon follow.
[ ]

The Early Roots of Indonesian Art
Many archetypes of prehistoric Indonesian art may date back to a time before the arrival of the Austronesians some 5,000 years ago. However, given the continuity of style and form that have existed up to the present day, it is believed that some of these individual pieces may, in fact, have been executed more recently.
muna painting
Rock Paintings
Rock paintings have been found at several sites in Irian Jaya, including around Lake Sentani, in the northwest; in South Sulawesi; and in Maluku. They have also been found on the islands of Kai, Tanimbar, Babar, Leti and Seram.
Hand- and footprints appear on the walls of caves on Muna island in South Sulawesi, in Irian Jaya, and in Kai as well as Seram. In Sulawesi, these paintings are associated with the Toalian culture of 8,000 years ago, though we cannot be sure they were painted by the Toalian people. In South Sumatra, in the slab-built subterranean chambers of the Pasemah Plateau, paintings of zoomorphic figures are still visible, using yellow and red clay, charcoal and haematite. These are dated approximately to 2,000 years ago.
Possible Interpretations
We cannot be sure why many of these paintings were created, or what the significance of the images is. However, based on current practices the hand stencils from South Sulawesi, with fingers missing, may be linked to mourning practices and to ancestral spirits. In parts of highland Irian Jaya, even today, women will cut off a finger as a sign of mourning. According to traditional belief, the hand prints are of supernatural beings who inhabited the area before the arrival of human beings.
Some of the human figures depicted in these cave paintings may, in turn, represent supernatural beings, or refer to specific scenes from a mythology now forgotten. Among some present-day Dayak and eastern Indonesians, the depiction of genitalia in art denotes the ancestors' fertility and the continuity of the lineage, and this may have been the case in earlier times as well. Furthermore, many of the zoomorphic figures may, likewise, represent mythical ancestors and form a link with the supernatural world. Among the Dayak of Kalimantan and the Toba Batak of North Sumatra, lizards and crocodiles are still respected as ancestral and mythical forebears and as protective creatures.
Paintings of hunting scenes probably played a role in the practice of sympathetic magic. The hunters, by painting a kill, hoped to control the game by supernatural means and ensure success.
[ ]
muna paintings

1996/11/01 rec.kites newsgroup
During July 1996 I attended a kite festival at Kendari in Indonesia. Present at this festival were representatives of various local ethnic groups. One such group were the Muna, an indigenous people from an outlaying area of South East Sulawesi. The Muna had been brought to the Kendari festival through the efforts of Sari Madjid and a govener of S.E. Sulawesi for the purpose of introducint their traditions to the wider world of kite flying. Their kites were complex an sophisticated but used only natural materials. I noticed them initially because many of their techniques seemed not dissimilar to Maori kitemaking although scraped coconut frond fibre was used in place of scraped flax etc. I heard them using the word "Manu" and was very surprised when an interpreter defined it for me as their word for "kite" (or maybe a particular type of kite) because "Manu" is also the New Zealand Maori name for kite. As far as I am aware some ancestors of the New Zealand Maoris began the migration that eventually took them to New Zealand via Melanesia and Polynesia from this general area more than 5000 years ago. The obvious inferences from this are that the kites may have origins in Indonesia and may be much older than we think but we need to be very cautious about jumping to conclusions. There are many alternativce explanations ranging from my misunderstanding what was said or meant to coincidence to ---? But at least the possibility warrants further investigation via ethnology and luinguistics. Anyone looking for a thesis topic? Peter Lynn

indonesian heritage


photo tt.

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