By Dorinthe de Man & Christos Alexiou
Editing by Calina van der Velden & Esther Beunis
In his well-known sociological study The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies, Marcel Mauss analyzed the social mechanics of the gift-giving process. In short, he concluded that gift-giving is a self-repeating system, based on mutual exchanges. It is constituted by three obligations; The obligations “to give”, “to receive” and “to repay.” A gift enforces a relationship based on mutual interests. Taking this into account we started contemplating what gift we could return to Odak and Saskia after they have been so gracious to us from the day we met.
What comes to mind when thinking of Odak and Saskia is their close engagement with a variety of people in different disciplines and a unique balance between careful planning and spontaneity. They welcomed us with open arms and not only invited but insisted us to join them every step of the way in order to create a balanced collaboration. This open invitation is key to the way LINK works. They exclude no one and we experienced first hand how even with the youngest children they aim for dialogue and input from everyone. Knowing all this, how do we pay tribute to Odak and Saskia for the opportunity they have given us to become part of their life work?
In the process of thinking of an appropriate gift, we realized that first of all our blog is a gift, fulfilling one of the first questions Odak and Saskia asked namely to reflect on their work by holding up a mirror to their actions. By engaging in multiple projects we tried to provide a birds-eye view to their work. However, this blog was a given from the get go. Therefore, we went on thinking about what else could serve as our symbolic gift.
Many of the activities and projects LINK takes part in take place outdoors. Eventually we believed that planting a tree in the playground (one of the projects we collected the quadruple bike for!) would be the perfect symbolic gift. Even the biggest tree started from a tiny seed. When circumstances are right, roots and branches will spread, making new organic connections every day. Network and connection are two core principles LINK thrives on. Throughout our blog we have tried analyzing these connections as intrinsic to the organization. We met the Vuyani Dance Company, Swedish students, people from the Noordse Park Playground and of course everyone who attended our final event, the Dance Encounter. We wouldn’t have met any of these inspiring people if it wasn’t for LINK.
We became aware that that newly forged relationships require investment in order to maintain them. This investment is similar to the care you have to take for a tree. It requires love and attention to be able to grow. Odak and Saskia taught us that it is important to create sustainable relationships with the people you work with. Their enormous network has grown to its current proportion because of their enthusiasm and the work invested in it. If you don’t keep in touch with the others in your network the branch will die off and might even impact the rest of the tree.
However, it is important to prune a tree every now and then. Odak and Saskia have shown us that there are moments when a project can stand on its own. The project is left, to prevent it, so to speak, from becoming a too heavy branch. The tree needs to be in balance in order for it to grow. We have likewise let go of our close cooperation with LINK as well, with new projects and internships coming up. However good bye doesn’t mean farewell.
Mauss, M. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. London, New York: Routledge (2002): 105-106.