all images copyright of Kali van der Merwe
In association with UCT Drama Department, Mothertongue formed part of the line up at the 2005 Voorkamerfest in Darling, with the production of Breathing Space. At this unique festival, the people of Darling opened their homes to host professional performances by local and international artists. Inspired by the exciting mix of community spirit and quality entertainment of the first festival in 2004, Mothertongue created Breathing Space especially for the festival in September 2005. The unique festival involves the entire community of Darling. This first of a kind festival leaves the element of surprise for the audience as each theatre venue ranges from a small township house to one of Darling's grand Victorian homes.
Breathing Space focused on women in Darling’s stories in domestic spaces and involved four professional actors, Jill Levenberg (Medea & Onnest’bo), Mbali Kgosidintsi (Much Ado about Nothing & Tall Horse), Alex Halligey (Repertoire: The African Way & World International Young Playwrights Conference) and Chuma Sopotela (Paradise), working alongside women from different communities in Darling. Three houses were used as sites of performance through which the audience journeyed, with performances were taking place in different rooms in the houses.
What made Breathing Space so uniquely Darling is that it engaged ten women from Darling over a period of six weeks in the creation process and performances. The production realised the potential theatre holds for initiating conversations across fixed geographical boundaries. In a town that is racially divided by a railway line and a solid tarred road, it was Mothertongue’s intention to use a house in each of the areas, thus initiating conversations through the arts between different communities.
In Darling, as in most small South African towns, segregation and zoning of the town was a direct result of apartheid planning. This has impacted on the language and stories of the place. Cross-community professional theatre can function as a means of revealing and healing these divides that are hidden in the residents’ stories. This form of theatre provides the framework within which these conversations can be facilitated and catalysed into action. It allows for ‘memory-moments’ to emerge, reflecting and enacting multi-dimensional experiences that are experienced collectively in the different communities that comprise the town.
Breathing Space saw Mothertongue once again collaborating with installation artist and award winning film-maker, Kali van der Merwe, who worked with us on our successful and ground-breaking production Uhambo – pieces of a dream. Kali worked with the Darling women to design and make the installations for the various houses.
During workshops, the women of Darling created suitcases decorated and filled with objects which reflected their inner lives. Objects such as a bottle of tears, a masked broken doll, an apple stuck full of pins gave expression to experiences of sadness, pain and tragedy. After a performance outside one of the local houses, the members of the audience were given torches to explore the inner contents of the suitcases which were situated in a darkened room.
A video installation was also created and played in the same room on a tv set, theatrically covered with red curtains. In the video we see a close up of a woman talking and reflecting while simultaneously viewing closeups of women's bare feet crossing on the sharp stones of a railway track. The sound of breathing is heard on the soundtrack.