When one mentions about our cultural heritage, the ‘Wau’ comes almost second to none. A favourite pastime in the old days, it is today regarded as an art form albeit close to extinction.  During the past, kite flying was seen as a seasonal event, usually held immediately after the harvest of rice. But as the years pass by, the Malaysian kites were not only present during ceremonial functions but also in major competitions and international festivals as well. Today, the Wau has come to be an artistic object which is judged solely for its beauty, its intricate designs, combination of colours, and the neatness of the workmanship.

The word ‘Wau’ is believed to have been derived from the Arabic letter ‘Wau’, because the shape of the wing resembles the outline of that particular letter. Many legends and local folklore surrounds the origin and even method of handling the Wau. It is said that in the past, farmers used the Wau as a sort of flying scarecrow to ward off birds from their paddy fields, and the sounds made by the Wau once it was airborne was said to lull their children to sleep which in turn gave the farmers ample time to tend to their crops without any distractions. 

The most popular of all the Wau’s is indeed the “Wau Bulan”. A name that certainly fits one of the three country’s official kites, the name takes after the shape of the moon because the tail of this Wau is resembles that of a crescent. One of the more stable kites amongst the others, the “Wau Bulan” is known for its easy handling and stability during strong winds. The origin of the “Wau Bulan” is said to have been during the days of the Sri Wijaya Empire, where according to legend, a young prince named Dewa Muda utilised the usage of the Wau by mapping out the districts that he had conquered on the Wau itself, which he will then display to his people.

The third and more commercially used of all the country’s official kites is none other than the “Wau Kucing”.Commercially known for its prominent use by the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) as the company’s corporate logo, the“Wau Kucing” derives its name from the sound made by the Wau’s busur or strings that very much resembles the sounds made by a cat. Originated from Kelantan during the late 1960’s, the “Wau Kucing” was still relatively new compared to the Malaysian kite scene as no one really knew how to recreate this particular Wau apart from the kite makers from Kelantan themselves. However, after many related festivals held regionally, other kite makers from many other states started to learn and practise the making of the “Wau Kucing”.

 Among the other types of Wau are the “Wau Dodo Helang”, “Wau Kebayak”, “Wau Daun”, “Wau Kikik”, “Wau Merak”, “Wau Puyuh”, “Wau Kapal”, “Wau Seri Bulan”, “Wau Helang”, “Wau Kangkang”, and the “Wau Seri Negeri”. Although beauty is solely ones first focus when viewing a Wau, to the Wau enthusiast, the most important factor is actually the sound or ‘denggung’ that resonates from the Wau when it’s high up in the air; flying against the strong winds.