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City of Brussels launches call for art projects as part of decolonisation plan

Illustration picture shows the opening of the 'Square Patrice Lumumba' square in Brussels, in honour of the Patrice Emery Lumumba, Saturday 30 June 2018. Lumumba was the first Prime Minister of the independent Congo after it's independence from Belgium. (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)
06:24 04/04/2022

The City of Brussels has launched a call for projects as part of an ‘artistic intervention’ on the Square Patrice Lumumba, adjacent to the Square du Bastion at the Porte de Namur, reports RTBF.

It's planning to install a colonisation-themed artwork in the space, located a stone's throw from Matongé, the African district of Brussels.

"The artistic intervention project on Lumumba Square is part of the City of Brussels' desire to decolonise public space,” the authorities said in their call for projects. “This approach began with the naming of Patrice Lumumba Square in 2018.”

The new art installation will be the latest project to be launched in line with the recommendations of a report written by a working group of the Brussels Urban Planning department. The report, 'Towards the decolonisation of public space in the Brussels-Capital Region, framework for reflection and recommendations' proposes the creation of “new monuments and symbolic commemorative inscriptions that represent historical narratives currently absent, combining the colonial past and diversity of Brussels society.”

With this in mind, the ‘artistic intervention’ on Square Patrice Lumumba "must lead the public to question the colonial question in a constructive and innovative way.”

The project may, for example, highlight the life and work of Lumumba, the first prime minister of independent Congo, who was assassinated in 1961, but could also “pay tribute to the victims of colonisation or evoke the female resistance during this period."

The City of Brussels statement added: "It's a question of identifying this space by taking into account its geographical, socio-cultural and usage specificities. This aspect is all the more important as this space is poorly defined. An artistic project, even temporary, can make its mark and become a trace in the collective memory. At the formal level, given the significant spatial constraints, the call for projects applies to both temporary and permanent forms of artistic expression: installation, performance, exhibition, sculpture, etc."

The authorities added that the future work submitted by an artist or a collective must be considered as "a counterpoint" to the statue of Leopold II on Place du Trône, a five-minute walk from Square Patrice Lumumba.

This confirms that the statue of the controversial monarch will not be removed, a decision supported in particular by the mayor of Brussels Philippe Close, despite the criticisms to which it is regularly subjected due to the role Leopold II played in the colonisation of the Congo.

Proposed projects will be judged by a selection committee, which will include representatives of the City of Brussels (Urban Planning, Culture, Equal Opportunities) but also of the Urban Art Committee and local associations.

Applications must be received by 28 May. The winning artist will be chosen at the end of 2022 and will be awarded a budget of €80,000. This will be followed by the construction phase before an inauguration in June 2024.

Written by Nick Amies