Siya Mahomba writes: Art preserves stories and immortalizes life. The Darling Collection, an artistic showcase of Darling residents’ personal stories, is testament to this. The upcoming three-day festival of performances and exhibitions is the result of six weeks’ creative collaboration between 40 residents of Darling, their most cherished tangible objects, and eight art students from Fontys University of Fine and Performing Arts in the Netherlands.Now in its second year, the initiative aims to promote understanding across different cultures, honouring local heritage and inspiring dialogue through the creation of art. It is the brainchild of Wim Visser and his wife Inge Bos, who back in 2004 established the popular annual Darling Voorkamerfest, at which one-off performances are given in the front rooms of houses in Darling during the first weekend in September.
Each Dutch student has been briefed to engage with five residents, each of whom must share their objects and memories and emotions with them. The challenge is then for the students to capture the essence of the stories behind the objects, and to create art pieces in the media of dance, theatre, music and/or visual art in which to present the stories. The objects themselves range from pieces of crockery to furniture, sewing machines, cooking utensils and more.
I was lucky enough last week to witness some of the final preparations for the Darling Collection. There was a distinct bustle giving life to the small quiet town as the visiting students were putting the final touches to their work, while every now and again huddling for quick consultations with the object owners/residents.
At popular cafe and deli, The Flying Pig, musician Lisa Van Nes was delivering a soulful performance of a song inspired by the antique clock of Gil Ferreira, the owner of the cafe. As she adjusted the strings of her acoustic guitar before her performance, Lisa told us how the clock had been passed on to Ferreira by his grandfather who established the cafe as a family business many years ago. Through the song, Lisa painted a vivid and beautiful tale of how the integrity and patience of Ferreira’s grandfather enabled him to develop The Flying Pig into the important and prominent feature of the Darling community that it remains today.
In a nearby community hall, aerial performer and circus artist Marth De Kinder was finalising a performance piece based on the necklace of Lydia Julianna-Jones, while in a tent a stone’s throw away, visual artist Melisa Sipma was putting the last strokes to a collection of paintings inspired by a guitar, a silver brass container, a vase, and the figurehead of a dog – the treasured belongings of five residents, each of which had a tale to tell.
It struck me that the Darling Collection project is really a reaching out: a recognition that the sentiment attached by one person to one object – however insignificant – can be recognised and understood and shared by many in a way that crosses all boundaries of culture, gender or age. The irony is that it is in this public exposure of vulnerability and fragility that we all, as a whole, can become stronger.
This is not only a unique project, but one that shines a charming and extraordinarily tender light on something that unites us all.