The Darling Collection – Preserving Stories, Crossing Cultures, Celebrating Local Heritage

The Darling Collection
A performance at the 2016 The Darling Collection

The Darling Collection is an innovative and unique project that culminates in a three day festival presenting performances and exhibition of artworks (visual arts, theatre, music and dance) which have been created to celebrate stories behind the most cherished objects of 40 residents of Darling by 8 students from the Netherlands.

The initiative aims to promote understanding of one another across different cultures, honour local heritage and inspire dialogue through the creation of art. Objects this year range from crockery and antiques to furniture, jewellery, artworks, cooking utensils, musical instruments, sewing machines and more. The students have started work on the creation of each artwork – they are given a brief about their object and owner and from there interview and talk to them over 6 weeks to create the artwork. The Darling Collection is a one-of-kind event, presenting performances and exhibition of artworks created to celebrate stories behind the most cherished objects of residents of Darling. Forty Darling residents will share their objects and memories with eight students from Fontys University of Fine and Performing Arts in the Netherlands, who will capture the essence of their story to tell it through works of dance, theatre, music and visual art. Each student will engage with five object owners and create an artwork for each story. The two-month project culminates in a vibrant festival of performances and exhibitions on 5, 6 and 7 May 2017, in Darling.

The unique initiative aims to promote understanding of one another across different cultures, honour local heritage and inspire dialogue through the creation of art. The project is the brainchild of Wim Visser and his wife Inge Bos, who have a longstanding relationship with the people of Darling since they established the Voorkamerfest in 2004, which hosts one-off performances in the front rooms of houses in Darling during the first weekend in September. Professor Jan Grolleman from Fontys, Artistic Director of The Darling Collection, says, “Darling has 80 streets and last year we approached residents in half of those roads. We had the most phenomenal response to the programme when people realised what we wanted to achieve. This year we connected with residents in the other 40 streets, to photograph and document their objects ahead of the arrival of the students. The creative process is only truly sparked when the student and object owner meet. Over the course of six weeks, the artwork evolves with further conversations to understand and layer the story, with some of the owners even taking part in the dance and theatre pieces.”

“The students are challenged to work differently from what they may have learnt with more structured and formal processes,” says Grolleman.  “They are inspired by human and social interaction, with a responsibility to the object owners to listen and fittingly interpret their story. A single object can carry decades of personal history, which may otherwise never be shared. It’s an honour for the students to be entrusted with these memories and we strive to give residents something they will cherish. We want to illustrate that everyone’s stories are important and can be communicated through art. In doing so, we nurture a deeper understanding between us. Competition for the students to take part on this programme is stiff – we had 32 applications for the eight places.”  

Objects this year range from crockery and antiques to furniture, jewellery, artworks, cooking utensils, musical instruments, sewing machines and more. Nellie van Schalkwijk, one of the object owners who took part last year, says, “You feel good when you can express your feelings. I was happy that the people that came to my place and we shared something.” Laura Jonkers, one of the dance students who took part in the inaugural Darling Collection, also returns this year with dARTling, a programme for primary school children including art, music, dance and theatre workshops. “I loved the experience of the Darling Collection. All the stories were so different, each one beautiful and inspiring. I am looking forward to meeting some of the younger talent this year and hopefully inspiring them in return! In this project we collaborate with local talents such a story tellers, dancers and musicians.” “The long-term goal for the project is to involve students from South African universities,” says Grolleman. “We encourage visitors to come and join us to enjoy the magic of Darling and a festival of wonderful, unique performances in May.”

The performances and exhibitions of The Darling Collection take place on 5, 6 and 7 May 2017, in Darling. Tickets cost R15 for a day pass and R30 for a weekend pass. To book, contact 082 321 7542 or email info@thedarlingcollection.co.zaTo keep updated with information visit The Darling Collection on Facebook or website.

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