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Belgium’s first Congolese cultural centre opens in Brussels

14:50 03/01/2024

Brussels is making a big step to help smooth over memories of its controversial colonial past, by proudly opening Belgium’s first ever Congolese cultural centre.

Brussels' minister for equal opportunities Lydia Mutyebele Ngoi said the centre’s aim was to “tell the historical narrative of the Congo and Belgium in a constructive, forward-looking way”.

Located on Boulevard Poincaré in downtown Brussels, the centre will offer a diverse programme “open to African cultures”, Mutyebele said on X (formerly Twitter).

Visitors can expect a range of events including concerts, exhibitions, film screenings and literary cafes. The new hub will also house an information centre about the culture and history of the Congo and Africa.

“We acknowledge the shared past between Belgium and the Congo,” said Brussels mayor Philippe Close.

“We want this centre to disseminate this history and, more importantly, to serve as a platform to empower the Congolese, Belgian-Congolese and African communities in Brussels.”

Mutyebele agreed, saying on X that she was moved to see the first Congolese centre "come to life in the heart of Brussels".

She described the initiative as "a unique adventure to promote equal opportunities and give every artist a voice".

At the recent opening, describing the centre as “a haven for transmission, learning and discovery”, she also welcomed the added emphasis on gender equality and that the centre will shine a light on “the significant contributions made by women”.

Also at the launch, Brussels' culture minister Delphine Houba said the aims of the centre were to offer an immersion into the heart of different African cultures and to reflect the diversity of any communities coexisting in Brussels and in Belgium.

The initiative corresponds to the United Nations General Assembly’s International Decade for People of African Descent, established in 2015. The programme urged Belgium, among other countries, to “address the root cause of racism today”.

Brussels has committed to be proactive in this global movement, notably via this project that the centre’s mission statement says marks a “crucial milestone in the work to ‘decolonise’ attitudes”.

Written by Liz Newmark