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january 14, 2015 \ newsweekly - € 0,75 \ rEad morE at www.flandErstoday.Eu currEnt affairs \ P2
Politics \ P4
BusinEss \ P6
Je suis Charlie
innovation \ P7
Education \ P9
Thousands take to the streets in Brussels and Ghent in solidarity with Paris following newspaper office shooting
Surgeons in Antwerp are the first in Europe to replace a mitral valve in a heart using keyhole surgery, and it took just 20 minutes
The 50-year makeover
art & living \ P10
Down memory lane
Exhibition in Ghent takes visitors through the life – and the mind – of top Flemish illustrator Carll Cneut \ 14
© Mark walker
antwerp cathedral is finally free of scaffolding after half-century of renovations dan smith More articles by Dan \ flanderstoday.eu
Fifty years after work began on restoration, visitors to Antwerp’s cathedral can now access all areas of the delicate interior. Though work is almost complete, the longterm renovation project was affected by a severe hailstorm last summer, and, in the coming years, the roof will need attention too.
ith more than 350,000 visitors a year, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp is one of the most important monuments in Flanders. Over the past 50 years, the building has undergone a dramatic restoration programme that saw many parts of the building off-limits to visitors for years at a time. The ambitious
project has included repairs to the exterior fabric of the building, as well as its delicate interior. The cost of renovating the cathedral has been funded by the province of Antwerp, which is responsible for its upkeep. The province pre-finances the work, but counts on a subsidy of 60% from the government of Flanders. Since the renovations started in 1965, more than €52 million has been spent to repair the cathedral and protect it for future generations. While the cathedral is the responsibility of the province, the north tower is the responsibility of the city of Antwerp. This arrangement was implemented by Napoleon and still applies to all cathedrals in Belgium; it was a logical division as the belfry of each cathedral also acted as a lookout tower.
Town authorities posted sentries in the tower to spot fires or approaching enemies. From the outside, it’s obvious that not all of the renovations have been completed. Scaffolding on the south side is in place to repair damage caused by a hailstorm that hit Antwerp last June. “About €1 million in damage was caused to the roof and stained-glass windows in just 10 minutes,” explains Amke Maes, project leader of the provincial restoration project. “That will take another eight to 10 months to repair.” The ongoing work affects just a small area on the south side of the cathedral. Visitors can now get unobstructed views of the building from almost every angle – enabling continued on page 5
\ CurrenT aFFaIrs
Belgian ecumenical and press groups condemn Paris attacks
marches in Brussels and ghent in solidarity with france after charlie Hebdo shooting
Belgian ecumenical group representing all of the major religions issued a joint statement last week unreservedly condemning “every form of terrorist activity.” It came in response to the shooting at the office of Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday by Islamic fundamentalists, which left 12 dead. A further 11 people were injured. The gunmen were killed two days later in a firefight with police. The group, Ecumenical Dialogue, is composed of representatives of the Protestant and Evangelical, United Protestant, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches, as well as Judaism, Islam and the Humanist movement. “There are not enough words with which to condemn the brutality of the murderous attack on the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo,” the statement read. “These horrific actions are a direct attack on our universal human rights. We are deeply shocked and troubled. We are faced with the moral duty to battle extremism and forced conversion within our own ranks. Extremism can never be justified.” On Thursday, in the federal parliament, a full chamber held a minute’s silence. Prime minister Charles Michel called for no concessions to be given to “preachers of hate and spreaders of terror”. Belgium’s media cartoonists gathered in homage at The Cartoonist gallery in Brussels, also observing a minute’s silence. Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was targeted because of its cartoons depicting Muhammad. “Yesterday was a tragic day for us,” commented Marc De Cloedt (Marec in Het Nieuwsblad). “They have tried since 2006 to forbid us from making cartoons about the God of the Muslims with pencil and paper. Now our gods have been murdered with bullets.” “Let me be quite clear: This is an attack on the freedom of
expression,” said Steven Degrysse (Lectrr in De Standaard). “I only hope they don’t close Charlie Hebdo down because then they [the terrorists] will have won.” “The clash of opinions, however harsh, is one of the defining characteristics of press freedom, of freedom of expression and of democracy,” the Flemish advisory board the Journalism Council said in a statement. “That applies also, perhaps especially, for opinions which offend, shock or disturb.” The editorial offices of P-Magazine and Clint.be in Beveren were among a number of locations receiving increased police protection following the shooting, interior minister Jan Jambon announced. According to the federal government’s risk analysis office, there is no reason to raise the alert level from the present Level Two. On the day of the shooting itself, about 500 members of the public gathered at the French consulate on Regentlaan in Brussels, while about 1,000 converged on Luxemburgplein near the European Parliament, to express solidarity with the victims of the attacks.
An estimated 20,000 people joined a silent march in Brussels on Sunday in protest at the terrorist attack. “We citizens condemn strongly and unambiguously all forms and expressions of fanaticism and extremism,” the organisers said. “Our message is ‘YES’ to freedom of speech and freedom of the press and ‘NO’ to hatred and propaganda.” About 3,000 people joined a demonstration in Ghent, while hundreds of Belgians travelled to Paris to take part in a march that drew 1.5 million people, including world leaders. Minister Jambon also travelled to Paris to take part in an international conference on terrorism. He said he planned
MePs observed a minute of silence in front of the european Parliament in Brussels on Thursday
to make proposals to optimise the exchange of information between national security services. “I find it shocking that the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris were on the US and UK security services’ terrorism suspect lists but not on those of the French security services,” he said. He added that better exchange of information was essential “because terrorism knows no borders”. Meanwhile, Flanders’ minister-president, Geert Bourgeois, said the attacks represented an attack on the fundamental values of pluralism and freedom of speech. “Everyone has the right to express their views freely,” he said. “That includes the right to publish provocative satire, which is something I’m familiar with as a politician.” \ Alan Hope and Derek Blyth
Flemish prisoner will not be euthanized Prisoner Frank Van den Bleeken, who was due to undergo euthanasiaonSundayafterserving30years in prison for rape and murder, will instead be transferred to a new psychiatric treatment centre in Ghent, federal justice minister Koen Geens announced. Van den Bleeken will ultimately have his wish to be transferred to a care facility in the Netherlands. Van den Bleeken, who is housed in the medical wing of the prison in Turnhout, would have been the first prisoner in Flanders to receive euthanasia after his request was
granted last year. His request was due to “intolerable psychological suffering” caused by receiving no mental health care in the prison system for 30 years. The European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg has condemned Belgium 14 times for failing to provide mental health care for mentally ill detainees. Van den Bleeken claims nothing has been done to curb the dangerous impulses that led him to commit his crimes. The euthanasia procedure was set to take place in Bruges on 11 Janu-
ary, but Geens said that Van den Bleeken would instead be transferred to the forensic psychiat-
archaeological items from the Iron Age returned to Iran by the Jubelpark Museum in Brussels, per court order. The items had been brought to Brussels in the 1960s
© Virginie lefour
Frank Van Den Bleeken during last year’s hearing regarding whether to grant his request for euthanasia
ric centre (FPC) in Ghent, which opened last spring. There, a course of suitable treatment will be determined, said Geens. For Van den Bleeken, that could mean another transfer to the Pompe Foundation facility in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Van den Bleeken rejected a previous offer of a place in FPC Ghent, a project which was still in the construction phase when he filed for the right to euthanasia. He was prepared to suspend his euthanasia request if he were transferred to the Pompe Foundation.
of cannabis seized in a single public transport action carried out by MIVB staff and federal railways police in Brussels. More than 5,800 passengers on trams and metros were checked
transgender patients seen in 2014 at Ghent University Hospital’s gender clinic – 30% more than in 2013. The reason is the breakdown of taboo and the increase in positive images in the media, said the clinic
However, Belgium and the Netherlands have no protocol for such a transfer. “Very recent intense contacts” with Dutch justice minister Fred Teeven, said Geens, “offer the clear possibility of a rapid transfer” to the Nijmegen facility. Geens has been working to develop new avenues of treatment for longterm detainees with psychiatric problems. There are approximately 1,150 such prisoners in Belgium who are housed in ordinary prisons.
annual gross salary for Luc Coene, governor of the National Bank, making him the best-paid central banker in the Eurozone
passengers carried by Brussels Airlines in 2014, 17% more than the previous year, despite the provincial and national strikes of the end of the year
january 14, 2015
weeK in brief Footballer Bernard “Junior” Malanda-Adje, the Belgian under21 international playing for Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga, died at the weekend in a car accident in Germany en route to the airport. The 20-year-old played for Zulte Waregem, first as a defender before switching to defensive midfield, and signed for Wolfsburg in 2013, where he played alongside fellow Red Devil Kevin De Bruyne. A verdict in the trial in Antwerp of 46 men accused of membership of a terrorist organisation, Sharia4Belgium, has been delayed by a month. The trial ran from end September last year to 10 December, and a verdict was expected this week. Flemish public broadcaster VRT has scrapped its channel Op12 as a cost-cutting measure. Op12 was introduced as an extension of children’s channel Ketnet on the same frequency and was intended to provide programmes for young people aged 12 and over. Fans of Flanders, the broadcast in English for expats, also aired on the channel. The frequency will now serve after 20.00 as overflow for Eén and Canvas, providing services such as culture, sports and programme with audio description for the partially sighted. Fans of Flanders still airs on Canvas. The Flemish Red Cross has begun a new campaign to attract blood donors of type O-negative, supplies of which are critically low. The blood type is of particular importance, as it can be transfused into anyone of any other blood group. Visitors the campaign website can keep track of the state of stocks of their own blood type. \ www.wiehelpjij.be
This year’s Days Without Meat campaign has been launched by a group of celebrities, including singer Natalia, filmmaker Adil El
faCe of flanDers Arbi, shoe retailer Wouter Torfs and star chef Kobe Desramaults. The campaign is aimed at groups, which can sign up to skip animal flesh for 40 days this year and post their progress online. \ www.dagenzondervlees.be
Three port workers from Antwerp who were involved in clashes with police during an antiausterity demonstration in Brussels in November have been given the maximum number of hours of community service (300) possible. The men were among four brought before a court for taking part in stone-throwing and damage to property. A number of police officers were injured. The fourth man’s case was re-opened after new evidence came to light. He will be sentenced later, together with five other accused. The TV stations ATV (covering Antwerp), TV Limburg and TV Oost (covering East Flanders) will merge next month to form a new broadcaster, De Buren, owners Concentra said. The merger was made possible by new co-operation rules in the Flemish government’s regional TV decree and will help keep down costs. The three separate editorial teams will remain to cover local events. National rail authority NMBS has filed for damages of €60 million from train constructor Siemens because of construction faults in the Desiro trains. Inspectors found 80 defects, which have led to each train breaking down an average of once a week. Eight-year-old Masai giraffe Dawa died at Antwerp Zoo last week. She had been ill for some time. Dawa was one of five females at the zoo and was the last Masai giraffe born in captivity remaining in Western Europe. Twelve illegal immigrants detained
in a security centre in Bruges escaped last week using a technique right out of the cartoons: They tied sheets together and lowered themselves out of a window as staff were changing shifts. A fight broke out elsewhere in the building as a distraction. The 12 were still at large as Flanders Today went to press. The non-profit Vredeseilanden has begun a campaign, spearheaded by rock’n’roll chocolatier Dominique Persoone of The Chocolate Line, to draw attention to the world shortage of cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate. According to estimates, the world will produce one million tonnes less cocoa by 2020 than now, leading to shortages and a price explosion. Cocoa farmers, with an average age of 55, are leaving the business because world prices are so low because they are not being succeeded by younger generations. Cameras equipped with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) helped solve 369 investigations in 2014, Mechelen mayor Bart Somers announced. The cameras are able to “read” number plates and can warn police when vehicles have no insurance or test certificate. In other cases, the cameras’ ability to record where a vehicle was at a given time can provide evidence in a criminal case. Mechelen has 58 ANPR cameras at fixed locations. More than 2,600 stolen vehicles were detected. Beer sommelier Sam Vanderstraeten has turned to crowdfunding in order to rebuild the Hof Ten Dormael brewery in Haacht, Flemish Brabant, which was destroyed by fire last week. The brewery grows its own barley and hops and was the first to launch a beer made with witloof (Belgian endive). In two days, the appeal had raised more than €8,000 of a target of €25,000.
“a Belgian Politician” “A Belgian Politician” is the title of a 2011 painting by Luc Tuymans, considered by many to be Belgium’s greatest living painter. Last week a civil case was brought against the Antwerp artist accusing him of breach of intellectual property rights. According to photographer Katrijn Van Giel, who works for De Standaard, the painting is a direct copy of her 2010 portrait of maverick MP Jean-Marie Dedecker. Van Giel is claiming damages of €50,000, intended to deter Tuymans from making further reproductions. Van Giel’s depiction of Dedecker shows him cut off at the jawline and centres on his forehead. The painting not only repeats the unusual framing, but also exaggerates even more Dedecker’s sweaty brow. Tuymans has admitted using the photo as inspiration but denies it is a copy. His work, he claims,
is a parody. The law on copyrights, he argues, allows an original work to be transformed for the purposes of parody. “Humour and parody are not restricted to slapstick,” argues Tuymans’ lawyer Michael De Vroey. “Luc Tuymans wanted to create a strong image to deliver a critique of the move to the right wing in Belgian society. His work is therefore more than just a painted version of a photo. The format and colour contrasts are different, so that no confusion could be possible.” Counsel for the plaintiff, Dieter Delarue, replied: “Of course they will now say it’s a parody, since that is the only way to escape judgement. To my knowledge, Luc Tuymans is not really best known for his humorous works. This defence is more of a parody than the work itself.” A judgement is expected by 22 January. \ Alan Hope
offsiDe diamond in the rough The city of Ghent regularly receives plaudits from tourism media who, realising Brussels and Bruges are news to no-one, act as if they’ve uncovered something hitherto unknown, year after year. None, however, has so far been so prestigious as the magazine Condé Nast Traveler, part of the stable that includes The New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Wired, which last week named Ghent one of its eight “rough diamonds” – or “dark horse destinations”. Ghent, the magazine claims, is “one of Western Europe’s most underappreciated treasures,” with “snaking canals … as impressive as Amsterdam’s” but “a fraction of the sightseers” (though doubtless not for much longer). “Having survived a German occupation during both World Wars,” the magazine goes on, “Ghent provides a pristine portal to the past but displays a distinctly
© Courtesy De standaard
flanders today, a weekly English-language newspaper, is an initiative of the flemish region and is financially supported by the flemish authorities.
modern energy in its annual summer festival” — a reference to the Bacchanalia that is the Gentse Feesten. “Although American tourists have been slow to catch on, Europeans clearly know where the party’s at.” For the record, the other seven rough diamonds are: Tulum in Mexico; Frankfort, Kentucky; Victoria, Canada; Santa Rosa, California; Waterbury, Vermont; Granada, Nicaragua; and Lafayette, Louisiana. Ghent is not only the only selection in Europe, it’s the only one not in the Americas. Ghent’s timing last week was pretty perfect, then, as it announced the success of its main tourist attractions, led by Sint-Baaf ’s cathedral, with 753,000 visitors, followed by the Gravensteen castle (photo), the Van Eyck altarpiece and Sint-Pieters Abbey. A total of 1,192,311 visitors. Not bad for an undiscovered treasure. \ AH
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5th Column The improbable year
2014 was a year full of surprises. What seemed impossible in January had materialised by the summer. No-one had imagined that N-VA, Flanders’ largest party, would drop its demands for reforms towards confederalism and enter a federal government based on an economic programme. Likewise, most people had expected the outcome of the May elections to be Di Rupo II, a continuation of the tripartite federal government. Instead, the new government consisted of three Flemish parties and just one Frenchspeaking party, the liberal MR, which also got the post of prime minister for young Charles Michel. One political observer compared 2014 to the banking crisis: no-one saw it coming, and economists were left to explain what happened in retrospect. Another surprise was the new minister-president of Flanders: N-VA’s Geert Bourgeois, who fulfilled a life-long dream. In the light of his party’s electoral victory, Bourgeois’ move up seems only logical but was still rather unexpected now. Also, a Flemish nationalist leading the government of Flanders is no less than historic, as Bourgeois pointed out in recent interviews. In spite of a difficult start, with unavoidable budget cuts, Bourgeois is determined to make his mark. He wants to prepare Flanders for challenges leading to2040,includingtheeconomic power shift towards the East, climate change, an aging population and new technologies. In exchange, the minister-president asks for “enthusiasm and activism” amongst citizens and businesses alike. One of the main problems his government faces is the increasing polarisation in the public debate. Last year’s strikes were reminiscent of the 1980s, and the issues at stake are anything but resolved. Newspaper opinion pages are full of antagonism; even many a Christmas family dinner was riddled with emotional political discussion. Some blame Bourgeois’ own party for this: in less than a decade since it was founded, N-VA has become Flanders’ largest party, but it never lost the “street-fighter” culture of its early days. Bourgeois, every inch a gentleman, calls this growing pains. Last year, his party took up its responsibility, he says. Now he asks for co-operation. “My message is one of optimism,” he says. “We’re not that bad off in Flanders, after all.” Maybe 2015 will amaze us, too. \ Anja Otte
One-third of residents in de Rand don’t speak Dutch
minister calls situation in flemish Brabant communities “disturbing” derek Blyth More articles by Derek \ flanderstoday.eu
ne-third of people living in the Flemish municipalities that ring Brussels, known in Dutch as de Rand, are unable to speak Dutch, minister Ben Weyts told the Flemish Parliament last week. Weyts (N-VA) is the minister responsible for issues concerning de Rand, an area that includes municipalities popular with both Frenchspeaking Belgians and expats such as Tervuren (pictured), Drogenbos and Sint-Genesius-Rode. Weyts was presenting the latest findings of the Taalbarometer, a survey that measures language competence in the region. He described the current situation as “disturbing”, saying that it
was about more than just language. “The basic problem is a social one,” he said. “It goes to the heart of the social fabric in de Rand.”
Belgian taxpayers don’t get value for money, claims Voka Taxpayers in Belgium don’t get value for their money compared to other western economies, according to the latest annual survey carried out by the Flemish chamber of commerce, Voka. The survey weighed benefits gained against the level of tax paid in 50 areas, including education, environment, poverty and job creation. The conclusion was that Belgians are getting a raw deal compared to other OECD member states, with Switzerland, Norway, Estonia and Germany leading the list and Belgium near the bottom. “Youcanseethatweareperforming very badly,” said Voka’s chief economist, Stijn De Cock. “We have the fourth highest tax burden, but we get relatively little in return.” The report put Belgium in 20th place out of 24 OECD
countries – the same as in 2013. “The only countries that do worse are Italy, France and Greece,” De Cock claimed. “We have the taxation footprint of a Scandinavian country, but we don’t have the quality of a Scandinavian government.” The answer, according to the organisation, is to cut taxes and force the government to improve on efficiency. “Belgium still has a huge potential for growth” but needs to cut government debt, reduce unemployment and develop new export markets, De Cock said. The report also noted some improvements in 2014 compared to the previous year, including education, the labour market, health care and enterprise culture. If the tax burden was lowered, Belgium would immediately improve its ranking to eighth place, De Cock said. \ DB
The report found that Dutch was the language most spoken at home, with 45% of people using it, but that French was understood by the largest percentage of people. The survey also showed that 67% of those who spoke French at home sent their children to a French-speaking school, while just 19% went to a Dutch-language school. Weyts was also concerned by the report’s finding that 82% of French speakers wanted de Rand, which is geographically located in Flanders and officially Dutch-speaking, to become a bilingual entity.
New fund to protect vulnerable tenants from eviction Flemish minister Liesbeth Homans, responsible for combatting poverty, has set aside extra funds to protect vulnerable tenants from eviction. The minister has boosted the budget by €312,000 to help tenants who are threatened with eviction by private-sector landlords. Some 13,000 families are evicted from rented accommodation every year in the region because they fall behind in paying the rent. Many of them end up on the streets or in shelters. Homans (pictured) plans six projects that will use the funds to tackle such problems such as rent arrears, substandard accommodation and personal disputes. “We want to work specifically with the most vulner-
able tenants in the private rental sector and provide the necessary support when they are at risk of being evicted from their homes,” she said. The projects will target potential problems at an early stage and offer support and help to the affected tenants using both professionals and volunteers. “We want to make the service as accessible as possible and, if necessary, set up advice centres for tenants,” Homans said. \ DB
Federal ministers visit facilities in Rwanda and Burundi Federal minister for foreign affairs Didier Reynders and minister for development co-operation Alexander De Croo made an official visit to Rwanda and Burundi last week. VRT news followed the pair as De Croo (Open VLD) told officials in Rwanda that theirs was the first country he was visiting since he took over the development aid portfolio. The two ministers were due to visit hospitals, schools and infrastructure projects in both countries that benefit from Belgian funding. Funds are mainly directed towards aid projects that improve health care services, connect households to the electricity grid and provide solar panels. “We are practically the only Euro-
© eric lalmand/BelGa
Federal minister of development co-operation alexander De Croo shakes hands with Burundi’s president, Pierre nkurunziza. Foreign affairs minister Didier reynders is pictured centre
peans who have a strong presence in Rwanda,” Reynders told Knack. Both Rwanda and Burundi were colonised by Belgium after the First World War, a situation that ended in 1962. Rwanda has made huge improvements in health care over the past decade, with life expectancy rising by 12 years since 2002. But the country is still performing less well in areas like human rights and freedom of the press. De Croo recently announced that he would withhold a €40 million development aid bonus because of Rwanda’s continuing failure to respect both issues. “The bonus was intended as an incentive, but it hasn’t worked,” he told VRT. \ DB
\ COVer sTOry
january 14, 2015
The 50-year makeover
antwerp celebrates end of ambitious long-term cathedral restoration project www.dEkatHEdraal.BE
continued from page 1
them to appreciate the fine detail and centuries of work by highly talented craftsmen. Although 2015 will mark 50 years since the restoration project began, it does not mean work will stop. “The transformer box that brings power into the cathedral needs to be updated,” says Maes. “And in the next decade we will need to start replacing the roof.” Yearly inspections of the building’s fabric are carried out by Monument Watch Flanders, an organisation that aims to maintain the region’s valuable historical heritage. If the inspection identifies major maintenance, the works are scheduled and carried out by the province. Inside, the cathedral is finally free of scaffolding, and all areas are accessible to the public. One of the highlights is the Reunion exhibition, which has brought together many of the artworks that were looted from the cathedral during the French Revolution. “The exhibition includes works by Peter Paul Rubens and Quinten Metsijs, which were specifically commissioned for the cathedral. They hang as close as possible to the place they were designed to occupy,” says Leen Evens, deputy director of the cathedral. About half the works are on loan from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts
Antwerp (KMSKA), which is currently closed for its own renovation. The exhibition opened in 2009 and will run until the KMSKA renovations are completed in late 2017. “Protecting the artworks has been a major challenge,” explains Evens. “At times we have had to remove windows for repair, which required us to create ‘bubbles’ around the construction work to prevent damage to the art. It has been difficult, but there have been no major problems.” With the restoration project stretching over five decades, there has inevitably been a change in approach. “Initially, the goal was to reveal the fabric of the building and how it is put together,” says Evens. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the great pillars near the high altar. “If you look at the west side of the pillar, you will notice that the paint has been stripped back to show the stonework underneath,” Evens points out. “Move around to the altar side of the same pillar and you see that the stonework appears whitewashed. This reflects the modern approach – today we don’t take anything away unless it is absolutely necessary.” Another example can be found in the sacristy entrance on the south side of the choir. Renovation
© stefan Dewickere
The 19th-century schyven organ is being fully renovated and won’t be making a reappearance until 2016
revealed two murals, only one of which is visible to the public today. “The top image dates from the 15th century. It was more or less intact … so it was left as we found it,” says Evens. Below that mural was another that “was less clear,” she notes. “This has been recorded, then preserved under a layer of Japanese paper to protect it for future generations. When technology is more advanced, the mural will still be available to a new generation of conservationists as we haven’t taken anything away.”
The area surrounding the high altar was the last to be restored and appears notably brighter than the body of the cathedral. “This is due in part to the whitewash that was used,” explains Evens. “However, LED lighting has also been installed in this area.” The new lighting highlights details such as the keystones on the ceiling of the ambulatory that surrounds the altar. Future maintenance will include the placement of LED lights in the body of the church. Noticeably absent from the cathedral is the Schyven organ, which
dates from the late 1800s. The organ was removed for renovation late last year and is scheduled to be operational again by late 2016. This year will mark a symbolic end to one of the most ambitious renovation projects in the cathedral’s history. The province of Antwerp is organising a number of celebratory events during the year, including a performance of church music. A study day will also be held to give an overview of the extensive renovations and repairs that have been carried out over the past half century.
a brief history of antwerp CatheDral
© stefan Dewickere
some of the most painstaking work done in antwerp cathedral involved the ceiling
Antwerp’s cathedral has occupied a placeintheheartofthecityformore than 1,000 years. Tied to social life, the cathedral’s own history hasn’t always been trouble-free. Today’s cathedral is on the site of a Romanesque chapel which is first mentioned in historical documents from the 11th century. Known as Our Lady Chapel, the small building developed into a large Romanesque church which, in 1124, became the parish church of Antwerp. Over the next two centuries, the church grew slowly, funded by donations from Antwerp’s wealthy families. By 1352, construction of a new Gothic church had started. As the building work proceeded, the Romanesque church was systematically demolished. In 1420, construction of the north tower started. By 1521 the north tower and the body of the church were complete. An ambitious plan to quadruple the size of the church was put in place. But those plans went up in smoke when a fire ravaged the building in 1533. A year later, construction of a
new roof started. By 1559, the fire damage had largely been repaired, and the exterior looked much as it does today. In 1559, the church became the cathedral of the new diocese of Antwerp. At the time, the Protestant reformation was sweeping Europe, and Antwerp was not spared. In 1566 the cathedral was severely damaged during the iconoclastic attacks of 20 August. By the late 1500s, the counter-reformation had led to the refurbishment of the cathedral. The cathedral continued as the centre of Antwerp’s spiritual life for the next two centuries, until the French Revolution (1789-1799) intervened. The cathedral was pillaged and closed for worship. In late 1801, Pope Pius VII abolished the diocese of Antwerp, and the church lost its cathedral status. However, services were restored in 1802, and the building began a new life as a church. A restoration campaign was launched in 1830 to redesign the interior in a neo-Gothic style. Much
of the existing interior dates from this time, including the stalls and chapels around the high altar. In 1961 Pope John XXIII re-established the diocese of Antwerp, and the church became a cathedral once more. In 1965 the province agreed to a request from the diocese to start a 50-year restoration of the cathedral’s interior and exterior.
weeK in business award luc Tack Luc Tack, managing director of Picanol, the textile looms producer, and CEO of Tessenderlo Chemie, has been named Flanders’ Manager of the Year by business magazine Trends.
The Brussels-based chemicals and plastics group has finalised the $220 million acquisition of Ryton PPS, the speciality polymers affiliate of the US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical company.
energy GDF suez
The French energy group has earmarked investments up to €400 million in its Doel 1 & 2 nuclear plants to extend their useful production cycles for 10 years till 2025. The government has postponed the closure deadline of the plants, slated for the end of this year, to avoid electricity shortages.
energy wind farms
The government has approved plans for the development of five extra offshore wind farms in addition to the three in operation. Authorities expect that wind energy could cover up to 10% of Belgium’s energy requirements when all parks are on stream.
The Dutch investment group is taking over Napoleon Games, operator of 23 gaming halls, betting parlours and online gaming products from the founding Michiels family. It also acquires the Knokke Casino, one of Flanders’ largest, which was bought by the Michiels in 2013 for €16.5 million from the French Partouche group.
The US-based food group has decided to shift its 170,000tonne European import activities from the Port of Antwerp to nearby Flushing, the Netherlands, blaming the lack of flexibility and organisation of the port’s workforce.
The French family that owns the dieting and nutrition group has opened an affiliate in Belgium housing more than 23% of its assets.
The Antwerp-based shipping group has acquired 14 container ships from Delphis. The ships are said to be among the world’s largest with reinforced hulls for sailing in ice-covered seas.
Tom Boonen and other pro cyclists face tax fraud charges several pro cyclists and Pharma-Quickstep manager hope for deal alan Hope More articles by alan \ flanderstoday.eu
op cyclist Tom Boonen and Pharma-Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere are among nine people and two companies due to be tried on charges of tax fraud, according to the public prosecutor of Kortrijk. “The case concerns systems constructed to keep the income of cyclists hidden from tax authorities,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor said. The sums involved were described as “serious”. Part of the complaint relates to Boonen’s residency status in tax haven Monaco, while in reality he lives in
the Kempen area of Flanders. The investigation dates back to a complaint from 2010 from the Special Investigations office of the economy ministry and concerns tax declarations relating to years prior to that. Boonen (pictured) and a number of other top cyclists, including Stijn Devolder and Jurgen Van Goolen, already reached an agreement with the tax authorities in 2013 involving the payment of large sums of unpaid tax and penalties, intended to avoid prosecution. That is no guarantee, however, that the prosecu-
tion will not press charges. “It is customary in similar fraud cases for the accused to push for a broad settlement,” according to Tom Janssens, a spokesperson for the West Flanders prosecutor, speaking on VRT Radio. “They then reach an agreement with the prosecutor to avoid having the case brought to court.” Should such an agreement prove impossible to reach, the prosecution said it was ready to bring the case to trial by July at the latest. © laurie Beylier/Flickr Commons
Brussels-City calls a halt to new bars and restaurants Brussels-City municipal council is no longer accepting applications for new food service businesses, according to trade alderwoman Marion Lemesre. According to the council, central Brussels already has enough restaurants, snack bars and cafes. The question arose when the owners of Wasbar, a combination launderette and bar, with locations in Ghent and Antwerp, said in an interview that their attempt to find premises in the Dansaert area of Brussels was being hampered by the council. Lemesre has now confirmed that claim. The council wants to maintain a healthy mix of commercial businesses in the centre, she said, and avoid the creation of more food-only areas, such as exist in the area of Sint-Katelijneplein, including the adjoining Baksteenkaai and Brandhoutkaai (pictured). The area around SintGoriksplein is the scene of a constant battle between residents and local bars. The council’s ban concerns new licences,
explained Lemesre: Restaurateurs are welcome to take over premises already licensed for food service. If Wasbar finds “a building that already has a licence, there’s no problem,” she said. “But if I allow them to take over a new building, and they move out within a year, I would have no ability to take action to stop yet another snack bar from opening up.” The restrictions apply to the Unesco area around Grote Markt, the area around the Sint-Katelijneplein and the Sint-Jacobs area, between Anspachlaan and SintJansplein. \ AH
More university spin-offs created than ever before
Every year, there are more university spin-off companies created in Flanders than the year before. Since 2000, the five Flemish universities have generated 146 spin-offs, according to statistics assembled by Flemish MP Robrecht Bothuyne. Spin-offs are established by scientists who expect that their research will lead to successful commercial products or services. An average 3.8 spin-offs have been established by every university every year since 2008, more than twice the European average of 1.7. The University of Leuven (KU Leuven) leads the pack in Flanders, with 60 spin-offs since 2000. Ghent Univer-
© Courtesy TTI Brussels/VuB
sity (UGent) comes second with 39 spin-offs. According to De Tijd, the increase in Flanders is due to the growing desire among scientists to put research results to practical use. The majority of spin-offs, however, don’t see growth, with about nine out of 10 counting fewer than 10 employees. According to Bothuyne, the government should support companies in taking further steps, such as by providing start-up assistance. \ Andy Furniere
Sabena bankruptcy administrator demands €850 million The court-appointed lawyer administering the bankruptcy of former national airline Sabena, which went broke in 2001, is demanding damages of €850 million from the Swiss company SAirGroup, owners of the former Swissair. Lawyer Christian Van Buggenhout has been in charge of the affairs of the airline since it went bankrupt, with the loss of more than 5,000 jobs. Two weeks ago, the Cassation Court in Brussels put an end to an appeal by the Belgian state for €1 billion in damages for the bankruptcy. The state was claiming a total of €900 million in losses for investments made before and after the takeover of the state-owned Sabena by Swissair, as well as €100 million for loss of reputation caused by a government losing its national carrier. Instead, the Cassation Court upheld a previous court ruling awarding the state €300,000 in
© aero Icarus/wikimedia
damages. The end of that case now allows the remaining civil action to proceed. The court of appeal in Brussels, which made that damages award in 2011, had stated that Swissair was in part responsible for the bankruptcy of Sabena. Factors involved included saddling the foundering airline with the purchase of 34
new Airbus aircraft (pictured), as well as failing to live up to prior promises regarding investment. Van Buggenhout will now count on that recognition of responsibility in his claim for €850 million, which, if awarded, will flow back in part to the state and in part to other Sabena creditors, including staff who were laid off and pensioners whose pensions were affected when the airline went broke. Van Buggenhout has already received an interim payment of €18.3 million. His original claim for around €2 billion was reduced in talks with the companies who had originally leased the new planes, some of whom had made substantial profit from the collapse of Sabena. That figure, as well as €550 million related to the social cost of the bankruptcy, will be the subject of debate when the case resumes.
january 14, 2015
A change of heart
weeK in innovation
antwerp surgeons perform Europe’s first keyhole mitral valve surgery senne sterckx More articles by senne \ flanderstoday.eu
f all the heart valves, the mitral is the hardest to reach. When this valve, which ensures that no blood flows back from the left ventricle to the left atrium, needs to be replaced, the surgeon needs hours to open the entire thorax to reach and replace the defective valve. During the operation, the heart has to be stopped, which is always tricky. It goes without saying that this operation is not appropriate for older, weakened patients. To replace the artery valves – which connect the right and left ventricles with, respectively, the lung artery and the aorta – doctors use keyhole surgery to minimise the impact on the patient’s condition and to shorten the length of the operation. But for the atrioventricular valves, which separate the atria from the ventricles, keyhole surgery is not really an option because it’s so difficult to reach the valves without damaging the heart tissue. But it’s not impossible, as doctors from Antwerp’s Middelheim Hospital have shown. In November, the mitral valve of an 85-year-old woman was replaced using keyhole surgery. While her heart kept beating at a normal pace, the Antwerp doctors made a three-centimetre incision in her left breast into which they inserted their medical instruments. After having pricked the heart, they positioned and
These patients were much too weak for open-heart surgery attached the new valve. “The entire intervention took just 20 minutes,” says Dr Stefan Verheye, the cardiologist who replaced the valve. “And after spending only one day in intensive care, the woman recovered rapidly from the intervention. Immediately after the operation, she admitted that her shortness of breath had largely disappeared.”
Biologists from the University of Leuven Kortrijk campus (Kulak) are developing a genetically modified water flea that emits light if it absorbs toxic substances from water. The flea could be used to detect levels of water pollution, reports KU Leuven’s Campuskrant. According to professor Ellen Decaestecker of the aquatic biology research group, Daphnia magna filters substances in the water. “That can be parasites or algae but also a broad range of polluting substances,” she explained.
Breakthrough in dementia treatment
© Courtesy Het nieuwsblad
This 85-year-old woman was given a new mitral valve in an operation that took just 20 minutes
Shortness of breath is one of the consequences of a poorly functioning mitral valve. This was the first time in Europe that a mitral valve had been replaced by keyhole surgery. The intervention was part of an international examination to test the new technique, which was developed by a Canadian medical firm. The technique was first applied in Vancouver on patients who complied with the regulation of compassionate use – experimental therapies may be used if there’s no other remedy. “These patients were much too weak for open-heart surgery, and without a quick replacement of their mitral valve, they would soon have died,” says Verheye. Verheye was part of the team that made this first intervention in Vancouver. He hopes that patients in his hospital in Antwerp will soon be able to receive the same treatment. Just like a car engine relies on valves to control the inflow of fuel and air and the outflow of combustion gases, our heart needs valves to prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction. And just like a car engine wears out as the mileage counter reaches a certain point, our
heart valves begin to show signs of wear as we grow older. “There are two kinds of valvular heart disease,” explains Verheye. “In the degenerative form, the valve shows signs of wear due to physical causes such as ageing or previous infection. In the functional form, cardiovascular disease can cause an imperfect closure of the valve. In both cases, the defective valve needs to be replaced.” Verheye is an interventional cardiologist and not a cardiac surgeon in the narrow sense of the word. He only performs interventions. “While a cardiac surgeon uses his eyes to study the heart, once he has laid it open, and to replace the valve, we use technical instruments to study the patient’s condition. For example, before an intervention we make a full 3D scan of the heart. We use that scan to build a fullscale model of the heart with our 3D printer. By doing this, we can check whether the artificial valve will fit perfectly. “The valves themselves are not made to the size of the patient. But, thanks to the revolution in 3D printing, this will also be possible in the future.”
Q&a Manu Keirse is secretary for health policy at the Gezinsbond (Family Union) and spokesperson for the Childproof platform, an informal network of scientists, doctors and experts from health and environmental organisations. One of its goals is to introduce stricter air quality standards in Flanders to protect the lungs of the whole population, but in particular those of children, which are especially vulnerable. Childproof was established to promote the “child standard”, is that right? Yes, the Family Union developed the concept of the child standard to demand that policymakers take into account the health risks for children when they take measures. We are focusing on the poor air quality in Flanders, which threatens the health of everyone but especially that of children. Even when still in the womb, lungs are affected by air pollution. Although there has been some progress in
Fleas modified to detect water pollution
air quality. Specific demands concern the improvement of cycle networks and encouraging working at home, to reduce congestion on Flemish roads.
recent years, the air in Flanders is still very polluted because of elements such as heavy congestion on roads. What health risks does polluted air carry? A well-known consequence is the increasing prevalence of asthma and lung cancer. But poor air quality also increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. What demands are you making? Air quality is not the responsibility
of one government department. Departments such as mobility, taxation, industry and urban planning need to work together for an integrated policy towards better
Have you noticed your work having an effect? Yes. There has been much more attention paid to air quality when planning new areas for playgrounds, to protect the health of the children who will play there. We also recently launched a protest action against the European Commission’s intention to lower the standards for air quality in Europe. Childproof has thus helped to impede this reduction of ambitions in the European air quality policy. \ Interview by Andy Furniere
Molecular biologists at the University of Leuven and the Flemish life sciences research institute VIB have made global headlines with groundbreaking research on treatment for dementia. The team examined three patients with frontotemporal dementia and transformed the patients’ skin cells into stem cells, which were then manipulated to simulate cells of the cerebral cortex. They then tried to develop brain cells that were affected by dementia but didn’t succeed. Further genetic research on people with and without dementia revealed the reason: a specific genetic signalling pathway. This prevented the cells from developing into fully functioning cerebral cortex cells. Through the repression of a specific plasma molecule found in dementia patients, the scientists were able to replicate healthy cerebral cortex cells.
emergency services via sMs
From 15 February, the Belgian emergency services will be accessible via SMS for the deaf, hearing impaired and those with a speech impediment. In the future, this option may be extended to the general population. The option to contact emergency services via text message was approved by parliament in 2011 but was never launched. MPs Jef Van den Bergh and Koen Metsu requested an update on the progress from interior minister Jan Jambon, who confirmed that the measure was ready to be implemented. “Good news for the 400,000 people in our country who are deaf or have a hearing impairment or speech disability,” said Van den Bergh (CD&V). If initial evaluations of the system judge it to be appropriate, the service could be opened up to the general public. \ AF
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EU STUDIES FAIR 2015
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Guided student tour of the European institutions Academic seminar on EU studies & international relations Academic seminar on business & law Networking lunch
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january 14, 2015
Making the right choice
flemish universities experiment with ways to redirect failing students daan Bauwens More articles by Daan \ flanderstoday.eu
ast year, the rectors of the universities of Leuven and Hasselt suggested barring failing first-year students from continuing in the same discipline of study. Instead, they said, the students should be assisted in making a choice that better suits them. The propositions focus on firstyears who, according to the universities, have no chance of successfully completing their chosen course of studies. In Leuven’s proposal, students would be refused the opportunity to repeat the first year if they score less than 20 to 30% of the maximum number of exam points. In other words, freshmen would need to pass three or four subjects to be given a second chance. The plan is based on the universities’ own statistics: Only 5.6% of the students who get less than 30% in the first year go on to get the degree. Students who score above 40% have a 16% chance of graduating. Last September, Hasselt rector Luc De Schepper proposed an even more drastic approach: In his plan, students who don’t pass any exams at the end of the first semester would not be allowed to go on to the second semester in that field of study. Each student would be given a personal orientation trajectory, steering them in the right direction. Asked about the need for such drastic measures, De Schepper refers to the new coalition agreement. “In essence, this is about budget cuts,” he explains. “The Flemish minister of education, Hilde Crevits, is championing admission exams to save on students who don’t have the right capacities to graduate from the start.” But according to De Schepper, none of the Flemish universities advocates such a proposition. “Our proposals are an alternative to these exams,” he says. According to research “done in Flanders, the Netherlands and the US,” De Schepper says, “admission tests bar one out of four students from entering. But 30% of those students would have grad-
uated if allowed in. In other words, admission tests are not reliable.” Moreover, he continues, admission tests “increase the general pass rate for freshmen from 50 to 58%. Hardly a significant rise. It is better to point the students in the right direction as early as possible.” De Schepper also points out an important paradox: “The Flemish government has repeatedly stated it wants to belong to the top five Regions of Knowledge in the world. But we do not have a large number of graduates. Only 44% of all 18-year-olds will get a [higher education] degree. The OECD mean is 53%. Australia and Canada score between 60 and 70%.” With admission tests, De Schepper claims, “Flanders’ number will decline even further. What’s more, we spend 1.4% of our gross domestic product on higher education. The OECD mean is 2%. We are economising while performing under the norm.” Anne De Paepe, rector of the University of Ghent, refuses to discuss the proposed plans in terms of budget cuts. Also referring to the new coalition agreement, she says new proposals are in the first place needed to “reduce the
unwanted side effects of the greater flexibility in higher education”. The Flemish goverment’s flexibility decree – approved in 2004 – allows students to carry over a number of subjects they didn’t pass this year to the next year or two years after. Students can choose how many subjects they take, or pick subjects taught in different years. This sometimes results in complex situations and often extends the time spent at university, particularly for students struggling to pass.
years, we have developed SIMON, an online self-evaluation tool meant primarily for pupils in the last year of higher education,” explains De Paepe. SIMON consistsoftwo parts.“First, your fields of interest are assessed, then your capacities in maths and languages are appraised,” continues De Paepe. “At the start of the academic year, we let freshmen take the test as well. Based on their results and on their interests, we allow them to choose another discipline.” That is the first step of the plan.
Can we expect 17- or 18-year-olds to be mature enough to make the right decision? “We need to make students better at making the right choice from the start,” De Paepe says, “and we need to do that in a humane way. Barring them after the first year is not an option. Can we expect 17- or 18-year-olds to be mature enough to make the right decision, influencing the rest of their lives?” First-years, she says, “are living alone for the first time, entering a system where self-discipline is needed. This requires adaptation. Some are good at dealing with that freedom, others less so.” Bearing this in mind, Ghent has drawn up its own twostep plan in response to the minister’s suggestion of admission tests. “In recent
© Thomas Tackaert/wikimedia Commons
Ghent university rector anne De Paepe has spelled out her institution’s plan for first-year students who don’t make the grade
In the second step, “those who perform poorly in the first year get a second chance. But in the repeated year, they must attain 75% of the study points. Or they need to choose a different discipline. It sounds harsh, but our data shows that only a very small percentage of students repeating their first year don’t reach the 75% benchmark.” Furthermore, continues De Paepe, “this approach has more promising results than the more drastic Leuven approach. In Ghent, “a larger number of students are steered in different directions”. At the end of this month, all Flemish universities will sit together to discuss the plans. The meeting might lead to a single, unified list of measures, to be proposed to the minister. “In the most ideal case,” De Paepe says, “universities will be free to decide for themselves. Each institution has its individuality. That is an important added value of our system.”
weeK in eDuCation
Thousands don’t finish primary school
According to a report by the Policy Research Centre for Educational and School Careers, about 2,500 young peopleenterthelabourmarket in Flanders every year without even finishing primary school. In 2010, the year on which researchers focused, an additional 2,845 students left secondary school without a diploma. Flemish law stipulates that students older than 14 cannot stay in primary education and have to move to secondary education, even if they haven’t passed primary school. The chance that they then get a diploma in secondary school, said the researchers, is slim.
job applications to be part of curriculum
Flemish employment agency VDAB is working with the community education network GO! to include an obligatory course in secondary schools on applying for a job. The focus will be on students in professional and technical education. The programme would provide practical information in terms of creating CVs and strategies in job interviews but also more theoretical help such as encouraging students to reflect on what they really want and are good at. Through the co-operation with GO!, the VDAB hopes to get youngsters motivated about their future work at an earlier stage. VDAB also wants to prevent students receiving incorrect or outdated advice via other channels, such as from their parents. Teachers would receive extra training in order to be able to deliver the lessons.
Crevits wants time-out for teachers
Flemish education minister Hilde Crevits is re-opening the debate with social partners on the introduction of a “time-out” for teachers who are not performing optimally for reasons such as depression or addiction. Parliament has been negotiating the issue since the previous government term. School directors can now only address teaching problems through a disciplinary sanction or negative evaluation. A time-out – essentially a break from work – would give teachers the opportunity to get appropriate treatment. The break would also be linked with a coaching programme. The intervention of an occupational health physician would prevent abuse of the system, Crevits said. \ AF
weeK in aCtivities Velofollies The biggest cycling fair in the Benelux, with every kind of bicycle: BMX to mountain bikes to e-bikes. Also bike trips, accessories, autographs, expert panels and more. 16-18 January, Korkrijk Expo, Dorniksesteenweg 216; €10 advance/€14 door \ www.velofollies.be
Horseback Dune ride A guided two-hour trail ride over the sand dunes of Oudsberg, a large area of ancient, drifting dunes that form part of the Kempisch Plateau nature reserve. Different types of horses and saddles available. Greevenhof Horse Dairy, Weg Naar As 95, Gruitrode, until 31 January; reservations 0476 832 565; €20 \ www.greevenhof.be
Great Birding weekend
Over the weekend of 17-18 January, observe the birds in your garden and add your count to the collected data. The website has tips on how to attract and feed the birds, as well as activities at Natuurpunt locations across Flanders. \ http://vogelweekend. natuurpunt.be
sweets with style Sample the best treats that Bruges has to offer during a guided walk through the city centre. In between stops in specialty shops, the guide shares anecdotes and interesting facts about the city. 17 January, 15:30-17:30; €12 includes tastings, reservations via the website \ www.tinyurl.com/ sweetswithstyle
Blessing of the animals and Horses An annual tradition in OudTurnhout, starting with a procession through town and a Mass in the church, followed by the blessing of animals and tractors. Soup, drinks and snacks served in the village square. 18 January, from 10:30, Sint-Antonius Church, Polderstraat 2 \ www.tinyurl.com/ animalsandhorses
winter walk A five-kilometre guided winter hike in Hoge Kempen National Park that encompasses the Stalkerschans, a 16th-century rural fortification, as well as wild areas covered with heather and juniper bushes. 18 January, 13:30; reserve at email@example.com, €5 includes coffee and apple strudel \ www.lieteberg.be
Cracking the code
antwerp escape room game brings cluedo to life, and then some daniel shamaun More articles by Daniel \ flanderstoday.eu
rook Waters was working in marketing when he first encountered an escape room on holiday. It was a game in which players are locked in a room and must find clues, use gadgets, solve puzzles and work as a team to escape. “I thought: Wow! It gives you a buzz, and we don’t have anything like that in Antwerp. That’s when I decided to start one here,” says Waters. He was as good as his word. Last November, Antwerp Clue opened its doors. There are other real-life escape games in Flanders, but this is a first for Antwerp. Waters, who moved from England to Belgium as a child, both owns and manages the company and is involved in each game that is played. He communicates to players in the room via text on a screen (which acts as a clock when it isn’t delivering his messages). “I think it’s really important, as game master, to add a little bit of humour and a few tips, but not give too much away,” he says. The hints help if the group gets stuck, so you don’t have a situation where you’re standing around completely clueless. But the game is also challenging and layered enough that it won’t be completed too easily. Antwerp Clue offers two themed rooms, which can be tackled by teams of two to six players. The Taken Room is set in a children’s nursery. Teams have 60 minutes to work together on puzzles and clues to find out where the missing children have gone and to escape the nursery. In The Office of John Monroe, which I tested with three friends, players investigate the murder of the eponymous private investigator. Adventurers again get one hour to search the premises, solve the murder case and find their way out of the locked office. The Office of John Monroe creates an atmosphere of suspense that is a dream come true for fans of crime fiction and film noir, and a great adventure for those who aren’t. Playing it brought back memories of watching the British game show The Crystal Maze as a child, as we worked as a team to solve puzzles against the clock, tension and adrenaline mounting.
escape one of two cleverly themed rooms at antwerp Clue
Afterashortwhile,youfallintotheroleofadetective without even realising it. With no phones or other distractions, Antwerp Clue offers an interactive and adventurous way to have fun. “We try to make it as realistic as possible in terms of the storyline,” explains Waters. There is some debate on the origin of live escape rooms, but many claim that they were inspired by an internet game created 10 years ago by Toshimitsu Takagi called Crimson Room. Reallife escape rooms “started in Japan about six years ago and gradually came through Europe,” says Waters. They have since gained huge popularity, especially, for some reason, in Budapest and throughout Hungary. “There, if you go to the toilet, you have 60 minutes to get out,” jokes Waters. Waters initially had some difficulty launching in Antwerp because nobody had ever heard of escape rooms. But he says that now that more people understand the concept, the reception has been very positive. It’s clear that Antwerp Clue has become Waters’ passion, and that passion comes through in
every aspect of the game. The rooms and puzzles feel like they were crafted with care, to create as immersive an atmosphere as possible, and each room has a very different feel. The games also come with few language barriers, as the puzzles are based more on codes and numbers than word clues. Where there is text, it is available in both Dutch and English. Though Antwerp Clue has only been open for a few weeks, it’s already welcomed visitors from Norway, the UK, Australia, Lithuania, the US and Russia, assisted by its stellar location across from the MAS museum on Godefriduskaai. Two additional themed rooms will open near the end of January, one inspired by the 2003 Antwerp diamond heist and the other designed as the laboratory of a Romanian geneticist. Waters’ energy is infectious and, combined with the thrill of the game, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself. The final minutes have the potential to give you an adrenaline rush that can last for hours. It’s the kind of experience you talk about for days with those who enjoyed it with you, and recommend to those who didn’t.
bite the Popeye treatment Leek, cabbage, root vegetables, sprouts … Flanders has plenty to offer in the way of winter produce. And by far the most popular is witloof, or endive. Belgians are the biggest consumers of witloof in the world, eating an average of 6.5 kilograms per person per year. They invented it after all. And yet there is room for improvement, according to the Flemish Centre for Agricultural and Fisheries Marketing (Vlam). The marketing specialists at Vlam have launched a campaign to make the white veg even more appealing, especially for kids. To this end, they’ve revived an old, familiar face: Popeye. One of the world’s most famous cartoon characters, Popeye first appeared in 1929. He is best remembered for scoffing can after can of spinach to maintain his superhuman strength. Parents around the world must have rejoiced when their little Popeye fans suddenly wanted to eat spinach, too. What worked back then just might work now, Vlam must have figured when it decided to prominently feature Popeye in its new witloof
colouring books with recipes inside and pictures of a witloof-hungry Popeye, not to mention a countless number of tough Popeye-themed temporary tattoos. So even though witloof is commonly a favourite of the older generation – and of top chefs thanks to its slightly bitter taste – it can easily be incorporated into a tasty snack for younger palates. © Bart Deseyn
campaign. A dedicated witloof website features kid-friendly recipes, like pizza, wraps and croquettes. Witloof is rich in dietary fibres and available year-round, so it’s worth checking out Vlam’s tips for parents to make witloof more enticing for little ones, such as adding milk to the water when cooking to take an edge off the bitterness or adding a bit of colour and sweetness by combining it with other vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin or cherry tomatoes. Last month, Vlam employees stood outside seven Flemish train stations to hand out 40,000
Five things you might not know about witloof: 1 Witloof (cichorium intybus) was first cultivated in Brussels, in a basement in Schaarbeek 2 It belongs to the root chicory family. Common names include endive, radicchio, Belgian endive, French endive, red endive and sugarloaf 3 It is grown underground or inside, in the dark. When exposed to the light, witloof turns green and (even more) bitter 4 It is often referred to as “white gold” 5 Flemish chef Felix Alen of the Hof te Rhode in Diest devoted a book to the vegetable in 2003, Witloof from Belgium (in Dutch) \ Robyn Boyle
january 14, 2015
The good ol’ days
famous flemish tour guide captures bygone antwerp in nostalgic new book diana goodwin More articles by Diana \ flanderstoday.eu
anguy Ottomer’s latest project, a book about Antwerp’s vanished past, has been years in the making. It’s the culmination of a lifelong fascination with the city’s history and the buildings that have disappeared from the urban landscape. Ottomer started out as the city’s youngest tour guide eight years ago. He now runs his own company employing several other guides and has made a name for himself as the city’s most recognisable ambassador and promoter. In 2013, CNN named him in its list of “Seven of the world’s savviest tour guides”. Born and raised in Antwerp, Ottomer readily admits that his fellow Antwerpenaars are extremely proud of their city. More than half (60%) of Ottomer’s clients are from Belgium, and a sizable portion are from Antwerp. “They really want to know their city. They want to know these little bars, these little alleys.” In the last few years, high-profile media coverage in the foreign press has raised both Antwerp’s profile and Ottomer’s. These days he has many clients from the US, Japan and Russia. Sometimes he also works as a personal shopper, guiding style-savvy visitors through the ins and outs of the Antwerp fashion scene.
Tanguy Ottomer’s new book includes everything from 19th-century postcards to family snapshots from the 1970s
three days, you’ll know the city.” The origins of his new book, ’t stad van vroeger (The City of Yesteryear), can be traced to the guide’s youthful passion for his hometown, as well as a certain rebellious streak. Bored with the history lessons in school that focused on faraway places and
I started to go to the city archives of Antwerp when I was a teenager Still, it’s not just fashion that lures visitors to Antwerp. “It has all the advantages of a big city, but pocket-sized,” he explains. “It’s a village because everyone knows each other. You can do everything on foot. For tourists, it’s an exquisite city to visit. If you stay here for
distant time periods, the young Ottomer had a better idea. “I said: ‘I want to know the history of the area that I live in,’” he recalls. “So as a teenager I started to go to the city archives of Antwerp and look for things like old maps, plans of buildings that were already
demolished, to see what it was like before. I started to get interested in old Antwerp.” ’t stad van vroeger profiles 12 different neighbourhoods and squares in Antwerp, accompanied by the history of the area, anecdotes and old photographs. Ottomer started the book with his own collection of vintage postcards, but then issued a public call for additional material. For the most part, people came forward with pictures that he already had. “Until this one guy called me and said: ‘Maybe you should come to my house and have a look, because I have some pictures.’ I go to his place ...” Ottomer pauses, leans back in his chair and chuckles at the memory. “This guy had so many pictures. It was amazing.” The book contains over 100 photo-
graphs ranging from 19th-century postcards to family snapshots from the ’70s. Two weeks after its initial release at the Boekenbeurs, Flanders’ largest book fair, the book was already in its second printing. It’s proven very popular with residents of Antwerp as well as visitors interested in the history of the city. ’t stad van vroeger isn’t just for history buffs and old-timers taking a trip down memory lane. It’s also meant to show the current generation how much of Antwerp’s architectural heritage has been lost, a theme dear to Ottomer’s heart. “One of the first tours that I made was about places that were destroyed by the city,” he says. “In the 1960s and ’70s they destroyed more than in two World Wars together.” By showing people what’s already been demolished in the name of modernisation and
efficiency, he hopes to encourage his fellow Antwerpenaars to value what they still have. Antwerp’s biggest fan is optimistic about the future. “I’m very happy that it’s such a successful book, and I’m very, very happy that people have the same feeling: ‘Come on, they destroyed too much. Keep the city like it is now and don’t touch the old buildings anymore.’” Ottomer’s next project is a children’s book based on A Dog of Flanders, the 19th-century novel about a boy and his dog – more famous abroad than in Antwerp, where the story is set. Perhaps he can do for Patrasche, the titular dog, what he’s already done for the city of yesteryear: unearth a forgotten gem and bring it to light. ’t stad van vroeger is published by Luster Uitgeverij in Dutch
Henry van de Velde Awards honour the best in Flemish design Last Friday, Design Vlaanderen handed out its annual Henry van de Velde Awards at Bozar in Brussels. Graphic designer and illustrator Gert Dooreman took home the Career Award, home deco label Serax was awarded Company of the Year and design agency Unfold received the Young Talent Award. Dooreman, from Ghent, started his career as an illustrator for newspapers De Morgen and De Gentenaar and is also responsible for restyling the newspaper De Standaard and magazine Humo. Serax, based
in Kontich, Antwerp province, is a home interior design label owned by Serge and Axel Van den Bossche. Unfold was founded in 2002 in Antwerp by Claire Warnier and Dries Verbruggen (pictured) after they graduated from Eindhoven’s Design Academy. The duo experiments with new ways of creating, financing and developing design. Two companies were rewarded for their environmentally friendly designs. Smappee, a device to measure home energy consump-
tion, developed by Kortrijk-based studio Pilipili, received the OVAM Ecodesign Award PRO for product on the market, while the Oxyvase, a vase that prolongs the life of fresh flowers with oxygen-rich water, was awarded best product in development. Fifteen products also received the Henry van de Velde Quality label. All products and designs are on display at Bozar in a free exhibition that runs until 15 February. \
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january 14, 2015
Psychedelia and The Big Lebowski
antwerp band Bed rugs just released their second album on cassette christophe verbiest More articles by Christophe \ flanderstoday.eu
hen the Antwerp band Porn Bloopers changed their name to Bed Rugs, they also promptly embraced a new sound – a decidedly psychedelic one. “It was not a choice,” claims drummer Noah Melis. “It’s the music we like and listen to, and without discussing it, we started playing it. Though I think in the end, we write pop songs with psychedelic sounds more so than really psychedelic music.” For Melis, truly psychedelic music tends to sound more droneoriented. “Psychedelia is more characterised by how the music sounds, with loads of reverb for instance, than with the actual music played. Bands like The Flaming Lips or Animal Collective are both psychedelic, though they’re quite different.” Psychedelia, adds percussionist Yorgos Tsakiridis, “is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe after doing drugs, one might find Sandra Kim psychedelic” – a reference to Belgium’s only Eurovision Song Contest winner. Stijn Boels (guitar), Yannick Aerts (guitar), Arne Omloop (bass) and Melis released 8th Cloud, their first album, three years ago. Tsakiridis joined the band after they released their six-track mini album Rapids in 2013. They’ve now released a new full album, Cycle. The group are currently Artist in Residence at Trix, the music club in their hometown of Antwerp, where they will play a free release show later this month. Tsakiridisalsoplaysinseveralother bands, with The Hickey Underworld being the most famous. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass guitar in The Hickey Underworld and keyboard and percussion in Bed Rugs. Precisely because he plays in several bands, he’s the only one of the five members able to live off his
© richard Grey
From left: stijn Boels, yannick aerts, noah Melis, arne Omloop and yorgos Tsakiridis are Bed rugs, who play a free concert on 30 january
music. Melis, for instance, together with his father, runs Me & My Monkee, a coffee bar in Antwerp that also sells records.
a loser whose rug is urinated on by criminals who mistake him for a millionaire,” Melis explains. “That intrusion shakes him out of
We wanted to call ourselves the Rugs, but that name was already taken “I’d love to be a full-time musician, but financially it’s not yet possible,” says Melis. “On the other hand, thanks to the bar, I’m around music all the time.” Smiling, he adds: “And when I need to play a show, I can tell my father: ‘Dad, you’ll have to manage without me’.” Bed Rugs took their name from The Big Lebowski, the 1998 cult film by the Coen Brothers. “It’s a film about
his lethargy, and he, finally, take his life into his own hands – which mostly leads to more problems,” Tsakiridis adds. Melis: “Since we adore that film, we wanted to call ourselves ‘The Rugs’, but that name was already taken.” Because Melis and Aerts are cousins and both their grandmothers used to make quilts, they settled on Bed Rugs instead.
Melis readily admits that they have often been called Red Bugs rather than Bed Rugs. “But we feed that confusion because we sporadically deejay as Red Bugs. People also think that the band name is pronounced ‘be drugs’, but we didn’t have that in mind. Not that we care; let people come up with their own stories, please.” The band wrote and recorded the new album Cycle in less than a year – an impressive feat as most groups take far longer than that. “Don’t give us too much freedom, we won’t use it,” says Melis. “But as soon as a deadline is looming, we start working like hell. That way we get the best result.” Melis says their ambitions are high, but also rooted in reality. “We’re
30 january, 19.30
sensible enough to know that we won’t embark on a world tour next month,” he says. “For the moment, we’re aiming more at shorter tours. Of course, the ideal would be that the five of us could all live off the band.” Cycle will be released in the US by Burger Records on … cassette. Yes, one of those artefacts that appeared to have disappeared at the turn of the century, though in fact a small circle of music lovers have enthusiastically embraced the old-school tapes. “It’s an honour that they want to release us, because Burger is solicited by loads of artists,” Melis says. “You might assume a cassette release is quite underground, but Burger has a growing reputation, so being released by them opens doors. They organise festivals with their cassette bands – Burgeramas they’re called – for like 5,000 people and counting.” For members of a group that play such mind-bending music, Melis and Tsakiridis seem very down-toearth. But for Tsakiridis a band’s cool-headedness has nothing to do with the music they play. “If you’re busy with music the whole day, you quickly realise that all the romanticism you read about in interviews is heavily exaggerated,” he says. “And if something like that happens, you only realise it afterwards. While you’re working, you have to stay concentrated. That’s the key element.” So which big Flemish music festival do they hope will call them for next summer? Tsakiridis says he would like to play both Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop. Melis agrees, but adds a caveat. “When push comes to shove, I’d go for Werchter, because we have already played Pukkelpop.”
Noordersingel 28-30, Antwerp
more new albums this month mensen Blaffen Verzameld werk • Onderstroom Thanks to Onderstroom Records – the underrated Flemish Brabant label dedicated to new wave, both old and fresh – the almost complete works of Mensen Blaffen have finally gotten a long overdue CD release, making Verzameld werk (Collected Works) a singular piece of rock history. Between 1984 and 1988, the band from Aalst released three 12-inches (as EPs were called back then) and one album – all on vinyl of course. Their mix of angular rock, chilly, funk-induced grooves and Sylvie Honnay’s weird, almost Dadaist lyrics
(mostly in Dutch, sometimes in French and German) was nothing less than unique – and not just in Flanders. Unfortunately, Mensen Blaffen’s exceptional originality wasn’t matched by a similar amount of success.
BrZZvll featuring anthony joseph Engines • Zephyrus/Vynilla On their previous three albums Brzzvll – pronounced “Brazzaville” – forayed into afrobeat, fusion, funk and jazz. With these ingredients, they brewed their unique blend
of danceable music, in the process becoming one of Flanders’ most funky musical collectives. Brzzvll also double as the house orchestra of ’Nuff Said, the Antwerp evening series dedicated to music, poetry and stand-up comedy. The band met UK-based Trinidadian author Anthony Joseph at one of those ’Nuff Said evenings and their subsequent collaboration on Engines is a homerun. Joseph’s voice – alternately soothing and angry, but always hypnotising – pairs perfectly with the groove-driven music of Brzzvll, who don’t shy away from exploring new musical territories, such as in the amazing “Liverpool Highlands”.
weeK in arts & Culture stromae wins most MIas Although he won half as many as last year, Stromae still came out on top at last week’s Music Industry Awards (MIAs), the annual prizes of the Flemish music industry. The Brussels hiphop artist picked up awards for Pop and Male Solo Artist in the public choice category and Live Act and Video Clip in the music sector category, the latter for his video “Ta Fête”. Electro-pop band Oscar and the Wolf won the Breakthrough, Alternative and Album categories. Triggerfinger won Best Group, and Selah Sue won for Best Female Solo. Bart Peeters won for best Dutch-language singer or group, and the hit of the year was “Gold” by Gabriel Rios. The Lifetime Achievement award was given posthumously to Luc De Vos, who died suddenly last month.
Film shot in Bruges breaks records
The most popular Bollywood film of all time in India is PK, which was partially shot in Bruges. Released on 19 December, it has already broken box office records in the country, taking in more than $45 million. The film, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, is about a young journalist in Delhi who, after having her heart broken in Bruges, comes across an alien trying to make his way home. “The director gave me three requirements for the European location: cobbled streets, a concert hall and canals,” associate director Karan Narveker told VRT. “Belgium gave us something that was very innocent and very charming, the kind of location we had never seen before.” The city of Bruges is launching a new tourism campaign in India based on the film.
Callier new sintniklaas ambassador
Alex Callier, the founder and bassist of long-running rock band Hooverphonic, has been named a cultural ambassador for Sint-Niklaas, where he was born and continues to live. He is the first to receive the title. The role, said the city in a statement, requires Callier to “undertake initiatives relating to democracy, diversity, sustainability and services that contribute to the development of community and city pride”. The decision to appoint Callier was unanimous, and he will carry the title for two years.
The Polaroid life of Carll Cneut famous flemish illustrator offers a peek into his creative process Bjorn gabriels More articles by Bjorn \ flanderstoday.eu
he exhibition Carll Cneut: In My Head is a winding trip down memory lane. It opens with a selection of Polaroid photos the laurelled Flemish book illustrator took over the past few years. They show an artist on the move, travelling to book fairs and lectures, giving interviews and celebrating with friends. Cneut, 46, is best known for his award-winning drawings in children’s books such as Het geheim van de keel van de nachtegaal (The Secret of the Nightingale’s Throat) and Roodgeelzwartwit (Redyellowblackwhite). “I started planning this show about two-and-a-half years ago,” Cneut tells me from his temporary studio inside the Sint-Pieters Abbey in Ghent, where the exhibition is staged. “During the preparatory talks for the exhibition, I mentioned that my profession doesn’t just consist of sitting at home and drawing. There’s a lot more to it.” Out of that grew the idea, he continues, “of showing my life the way it is, in Polaroids. Because unlike digital photography, those can’t be tinkered with. Polaroids don’t embellish life. On the contrary, they show it how it actually is.” After this analogue introduction, the exhibition goes further back in time and unfolds as a journey through Cneut’s childhood in the West Flemish village of Geluwe (now part of Wervik), near the French border. A 3D-reconstruction of the avenue with trees on both sides that connected his childhood home with a local steenweg (road) offers a gateway to Cneut’s early years. In room after room, or aviary after classroom, visitors experience Cneut’s formative years: eating with his grandmother, throwing mud, hiding in the backseat of the car while his mother drove to various frituurs and encountering legendary local figures who hid at the bottom of a pond, or rode a bike to and fro all day, every day. “The construction of that part of the exhibition, together with the staff of Sint-Pieters Abbey, almost felt like making a book,” Cneut explains. “Other than a few new drawings here and there, most come from previous work. We laboured long to find a logic that would bind everything together, just like in a book.” An integral part of the show’s storyline is the audio walk, narrated in both West Flemish dialect and Dutch, created by comedian and raconteur par excellence Wouter Deprez, a friend of Cneut’s who also hails from Geluwe. “Wouter is a friend who is very familiar with the surroundings I grew up in,” explains Cneut. “We talked a lot about my childhood,
a bridge between kids and adults: Carll Cneut; see the world through the eyes of the illustrator at In My Head
and he shaped those conversations into short stories firmly based on my experiences. The West Flemish version feels even more personal to me because it is in my own dialect, which I share with Wouter.” The closeness of Cneut and Deprez proved essential to the very private feel of the audio walk. “Perhaps I even shared more intimacies than I would have thought beforehand,” Cneut admits. “If it wasn’t for our friendship, I would never have divulged so much personal information. I’ve had doubts about sharing these stories, but now I’m sure this is the way it should be.” Among those more private childhood memories is the early death of Cneut’s father, with whom he sometimes drew Mickey Mouse figures. As a tribute, Cneut has now drawn – for the first time since then – a Micky Mouse. “My father died when I was nine,” he says. “My sisters and I suddenly became special in the eyes of the villagers. Typical for a small community – everyone knew what had happened. So the baker looked at us compassionately, and
the butcher gave us three slices of sausage instead of one. But don’t get the wrong idea, I had a very happy childhood.” A important moment in Cneut’s future development as an illustrator was the discovery of the bold work of turn-of-the-20th-century Ostend artist James Ensor, through a poster that could be acquired by saving the famous points from West Flemish food company Soubry. Many spaghettis later, Cneut had also digested art that didn’t limit itself to tedious landscapes or inert fruit and flowers. “Without Ensor, I might have become a lawyer,” says Cneut, who paid tribute to Ensor and masters like Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch in books like Dulle Griet and De Blauwe Vogel, an adaptation of Nobel prize-winner Maurice Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird. The interplay between narration in words and visual storytelling is well-known terrain for Cneut,
until 10 may
whose drawings tend to form a parallel tale that interacts with the story. Of equal importance is the imaginative audacity from which his work never shies away. He wants to create multi-layered books for audiences of all ages. “The show is intended for adults, but children can also enjoy it,” Cneut says. “Similarly, adults read a book like Dulle Griet – which I created with author Geert De Kockere – and get the references, while children have an entirely different reading experience. Hopefully, once they grow up, they can return to those books and read them anew.” As an internationally renowned illustrator published across the world, Cneut has experienced cultural and commercial differences with regard to children’s books. “Major British and American publishing houses that employ a lot of people tend to be exceedingly careful,” he notes. The Amazing Love Story of Mr Morf, the only book Cneut both wrote and illustrated, was published by the London-based giant Macmillan in 2002. “I’m still happy with the book and with its large-scale distribution, but I think the project came too early in my career,” he says. “I was so young and so happy to work for them that I became too amenable to their instructions. And there were a lot of them, including the concern that the word ‘love’ would equal ‘sex’ and how a pig would be drawn. But, all in all, it was a valuable lesson for me.” It hasn’t hindered him from drawing English-speaking pigs in his distinctive style, either, such as in Ten Moonstruck Piglets, which was published by the US imprint Clarion Books in 2011. Cneut’s particular style first came to the fore in his fourth book, Willy. Originally published in 1999 locally by De Eenhoorn, it is now also available in English via Eerdmans Publishing. “While illustrating that story I actually had a moment when I thought: ‘I am an illustrator now’.” And he has been ever since, meticulously forging new ways to craft colourful fantasy worlds inhabited by fairy-tale figures and animals, like in his most recent yellow-dominated illustrations for De gouden kooi (The Golden Cage) by FrenchItalian author Anna Castagnoli. The book has been translated by Flemish author Saskia De Coster. The original drawings in De gouden kooi and other books finish the exhibition, right before you step into Cneut’s workspace to ask him, for instance, how the elephant got its tiny tail.
january 14, 2015
West Africa in Brussels
Afropean+ 17 january
eggae star Alpha Blondy tops the bill at Afropean+, a day-long event at Bozar in Brussels that puts a spotlight on the African diaspora in Europe and the contribution it makes to the cultural landscape. In addition to concerts by established and new performers, there will be films, debates, play readings, a craft fair, children’s entertainment and exhibitions. The musical line-up has a distinctly West African flavour. Alpha Blondy hails from Ivory Coast, bringing his local take on mainstream reggae. Sekouba Bambino cut his teeth with Guinean legends Bembeya Jazz National and continues in the
antwerp Booker T Jones: The 70-yearold living legend performs songs from his new album, with the help of fellow soul artists Anthony Hamilton, Estelle and Raphael Saadiq. 22 January 20.30, De Roma, Turnhoutsebaan 286
Bozar, Brussels www.BoZar.BE
group's afropop tradition with a touch of Cuban style thrown in. Nzimbu Project brings together veteran pianist Ray Lema of CongoKinshasa with singers Ballou Canta and Fredy Massamba from across the river in Congo-Brazzaville. They perform with Brazilian guitarist Rodrigo Viana, producing a mellow and soulful acoustic sound. Finally, urban pop singer Pegguy Tabu pays tribute to celebrated Congolese rhumba singer Tabu Ley Rochereau, his father. Throughout the day, young artists from the African diaspora in Belgium appear at the Brussels Talent Show. The aim is to attract the attention of programmers and
performanCe agents, and to reach out to new audiences. You will need tickets for the concerts, but the rest of the day is free. The programme includes documentaries and fiction films set in Congo, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Mali. Pride of place goes to Colour Bar by Roland Gunst, which explores the mixedrace director's identity crisis being
until 22 february
wiels, Brussels www.wiEls.org
The irony of contemporary art is that its revolutionary impulses have proven all too easily assimilated into the very hierarchies they once sought to level. To be sure, the 21st-century museum looks different than its 19th-century forebear, but it mostly works the same. French artist Pierre Leguillon tackles this subject in The Museum of Mistakes: Contemporary Art and Class Struggle. Classification here operates on two levels: It is both the division of space into different classes of objects and the division of society into different classes of people. True to the original mission of contemporary art, Leguillon attempts to de-class-ify the museum. \ Georgio Valentino
radio modern Elvis special 17 january, 20.00 If, as some conspiracy theorists speculate, Elvis Presley staged his own death in 1977, he has just celebrated his 80th birthday in blissful anonymity. The rest of us have Radio Modern’s Elvis Special. The evening begins with a dance lesson covering the obligatory pelvic gyrations. Then a line-up of Elvis impersonators vie for supremacy in the Battle
15-30 january Although he rose to prominence in Nazi-occupied Paris, thanks to the instantly recognizable tune “Nuages”, gypsy-jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt was born in Belgium. And the Belgians won’t soon forget it. Every winter the jazz legend’s birthday (23 January) is celebrated with a fortnight of music, performed by an international lineup of Django-inspired musicians. Nearly 30 venues across Belgium are participating in this year’s Djangofolllies (no, we haven’t misspelled it). This year’s programme boasts performances by Flanders’ De Cauter family (Dajo pictured), Mons-based ensemble ACQMM and the Dutch-Romanian Limberger Family, whose patriarch Piotto was once a member of Django’s group. \ GV
party kursaal, Ostend www.radiomodErn.BE
of the Kings. These literal pretenders to the throne are accompanied by a seven-piece band and a troupe of go-go dancers. Those keen to have a souvenir of their brush with royalty can pose for a snapshot with Elvis in the photo corner. Thereafter a DJ spins retro hits from the likes of Little Richard, Chuck Berry and, of course, Presley himself. \ GV
© alexandra Huddleston
treated as white in Africa but black in Belgium. Meetings range from a symposium on cultural entrepreneurship in Brussels’ African diaspora to a debate on the role of women in Africa and Europe. Between times, check out the exhibition Timbuktu Renaissance, arts and crafts at the market and food from across Africa. \ Ian Mundell
Bruges Snapshot 10: The Halberdiers: The 10th edition of Bruges’ annual Snapshot series features Flemish photographer Max Pinckers who explores the St Michael’s Guild in Bruges, Flanders’ best-known fencing guild. Until 19 April, Volkskundemuseum, Balstraat 43
across Belgium www.BrosElla.BE
festival Brussels Brussels Jazz Festival: Multimedia festival featuring film, improvisation, jam sessions and concerts by Philip Catherine, the Rigas Ritmi Allstars of Latvia and performance artist Cécile McLorin Salvant, among others. Until 23 January, Flagey, HeiligKruisplein \ www.flagey.be
© stefe jiroflee
film get tic
chocoladesalon After working up their courage with many warm-up events around the world, the folks behind the Chocoladesalon brought their cacao convention to chocolate’s most favoured nation for the first time last year. It was a hit. The second edition promises to be even sweeter. Some 60 international producers and vendors are
Grote hoofden, kleine hartjes (Big Heads, Small Hearts): Family performance about heads full of dreams, based on the book Knies en broos by Flemish writer Reineke Van Hooreweghe (in Dutch; ages 7 and up). 17-18, 21 January, Bronks, Varkensmarkt 15-17 (Tours Flanders thereafter)
Brussels expo HttP://BrussEls.salondu-cHocolat.com
on hand to show their wares. There are also demonstrations, an exhibition of chocolate art and a runway show with the latest in edible couture. Chocoladesalon partners include giants of the Belgian scene like Pierre Marcolini and Flemish chocolatier Dominique Persoone.
Brussels Cinema Nova 35/18mm: Mini-festival honouring 35 and 18mm, featuring five films from five countries, thoughtfully selected by the Cinema Nova team in celebration of the venue’s 18th birthday. 21 January to 4 February, Cinema Nova, Arenbergstraat 3 \ www.nova-cinema.org
Gala Nocturna: The worldfamous darkly romantic costume ball is themed The Swan Princess this year and features historical dance lesson, appetizers at the Swan Buffet, vendors, absinthe bar, photo corner and more. 7 March 20.00, Concert Noble, Aarlenstraat 84 \ www.gala-nocturna.com
january 14, 2015
Talking Dutch you’ve got a friend in me
Ilknur Cengiz @IlknurCengiz Engaged in the preparation of exhibition in the Castle Claeys Bouuaert in #Ghent @RudyCoddens
derek Blyth More articles by Derek \ flanderstoday.eu
veryoneagreesthatFacebook is a good way to keep in touch with your friends. But sometimes the social media site suggests that you share your life with someone you’ve never met. As De Morgen noted recently, Soms slaat het algoritme de bal mis, en worden twee wildvreemden aan elkaar gekoppeld – Sometimes the algorithm gets it wrong, and it connects two total strangers. When that happens, most people just click “No thanks”. But a film student from Ghent chose a different response. Als Victor Van Rossem een plaatje te zien krijgt van Neal, een man met een lange grijze baard en een enorme grijns op zijn gezicht, besluit hij op de suggestie in te gaan – When Victor Van Rossem received a photo of a man with a long grey beard and a big grin on his face, he decided to follow up the suggestion. “De suggestie van Facebook was absurd,” zegt Vincent. “Neal is 49 en woont aan de andere kant van de wereld” – “Facebook’s suggestion was absurd,” Vincent says. “Neal is 49 years old and lives on the other side of the world.” But Van Rossem was looking for a
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challenge. Op dat moment heeft hij zijn buik vol van het kunstzinnige karakter van de school – Just then, he was fed up spending all day in the classroom. Naar buiten wil hij, op avontuur! – He wanted to get out and have an adventure! VanRossemtriedtobecomefriends with the man with the beard, but his request was turned down. He refused to give up. Met medestudent Bram Van Bree boekt hij een ticket naar Austin om Neal op te zoeken – With fellow student Bram Van Bree, he booked a ticket to Austin to track down Neal. It turned out to be harder than expected – Op goed geluk door Austin dwalen levert weinig op – Wandering around Austin hoping to bump into him didn’t produce much. Een afficheactie evenmin – Nor did a poster campaign. The two students finally tracked down the elusive Neal through a local bookshop. He turned out to be every bit as eccentric as his profile picture suggested. De jongens worden het bizarre universum van Neal Retke ingezogen – The two youngsters were drawn into Neal Retke’s bizarre world, vol esoterische literatuur en heftige
Melissa Clausen @sweetmelissa20 Bruges! Love it! RT @TravlandLeisure: These romantic cities have Cupid taking notes: http://tandl.me/13R2OoU
© Het nieuwsblad
Victor Van rossem (left) and Bram Van Bree with their new friend neal retke
noisefeestjes waar een gast tot moes word geslagen in het kader van een performance – complete with esoteric books and “heavy noise parties”, where a participant was beaten up as part of a performance. But it all ended well for the pair from Flanders. Het resultaat van de zoektocht is een documentaire geworden, hun eindwerk bovendien – Their journey became a documentary, which they submitted as their final-year project. Van Rossem had also made a new friend. “Hij is een beetje een vreemde vriend, maar wel een echte vriend” – “He is a bit of a strange friend, but he’s a real friend.”
Tweet us your thoughts @FlandersToday
a. oudjes (elderly people)
Sandy Walsh @SandyWalsh_40 Good training and good game today against KV Mechelen. 2-1 win. Tomorrow last day!
In response to: Brussels-City calls a halt to new bars and restaurants Paola Campo I don’t get it. I would understand if this was happening in a residential area or in an actual historical landmark. But Dansaert?
In response to: Antwerp welcomes first escape room game Volkan Bozkurt Antwerpen .... my darling
c. selfie (self-portrait photo) d. participatiesamenleving (participative society) e. OMG (Oh My God)
form. Thankfully, its use seems to be limited to young people, who probably need its message more than anyone. Elsewhere, you were pretty evenly splitbetweenoudjes,participatiesamenleving and OMG (pronounced Oh-Em-Gee), the latter of which is
\ next week's question:
thinning the soup
“Put 20% aside, get rid of some staff and reduce opening hours. Otherwise you won’t survive the white cash register.”
Filip Vanheusden, chair of Horeca Vlaanderen, offers advice to cafes and restaurants in a New Year letter
b. yolo (You Only Live Once)
another import, the former harmless enough, while the middle term is the only real abomination. Selfie picked up a minimum of votes, which suggests it’s already too deeply engrained in the language (both English and Dutch) to even consider losing.
Convicted killer Frank Van den Bleeken was granted permission to undergo euthanasia because, after 30 years, his prison sentence has become intolerable. What do you think? Log in to the Flanders Today website at www.flanderstoday.eu and click on VOTE!
Tona @Tonadoodles Just a quick sketch. I miss spring and my bike. I wanna go back to #Hasselt if only for a day.… http://instagram.com/p/xuxfxOuQBV/
the last worD
which of these words do you think should be scrapped from the dutch language?
The word you would most like to see vanish from the Dutch language is the English acronym yolo, which stands for You Only Live Once – a sort of baby-talk version of the Latin phrase carpe diem. Presumably voters have no quarrel with the sense of the word, just its
voiCes of flanDers toDay
“If this goes any further, our fundamental rights will be at risk, and we can turn back the clock on our civilisation. We haven’t had those liberties for long, you know, and we had to fight for centuries to win them.” Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois on the Charlie Hebdo attack, in Het Nieuwsblad
“It’s important to just be there to listen. Asking about their living situation is good. Prisoners talk easily about that sort of thing.”
The charity Bond zonder Naam is looking for volunteers to write to people in prison, Yves Bocklandt explains
“It’s as if I’ve lost a child. I can’t even watch the demolition work; it’s too painful.”
Flemish artist Arne Quinze, whose monumental wooden structure “The Passenger” in Mons collapsed and had to be dismantled