Here’s how Belgium is celebrating Black History Month
For the second time round, Black History Month is coming to Belgium. This celebration of all things black is concentrated on Antwerp, with more than 20 events organised at cultural venues across the city, but select events are also planned in Brussels, Vilvoorde and Mechelen.
Although Black History Month developed in the US as a month-long celebration of African-American history and figures, it has also begun to pop up in Europe in recent years with Black History Months now organised in the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and – since last year – Belgium.
The month-long programme, which kicks off on 1 March, will focus firmly on Afro-Belgians and the African diaspora by way of performances, storytelling evenings, film projections, dance jams and guided exhibition tours.
“We want to make Afro-Belgians more visible. And for this edition we specifically wanted to create a platform for black art and spotlight the people behind that art,” says Anouk Torbeyns, one of the event’s organisers. “More than anything, we want to point the way to black art for young black people because we see that there’s limited knowledge of Black artists among them.”
This latest edition in Belgium will focus on art as a form of a resistance and as a path to liberation. “That is the through line across the different events,” says Torbeyns. “How can art as an expression form become a project to question things, especially the status quo, and to this way attain freedom as an individual or community?”
Although Black History Month is organised by black people for black people, Torbeyns emphasises that they won’t be turning anyone away. “Everyone who is interested in these topics and who wants to learn more about them is welcome.”
Here’s our pick of not-to-miss events. Check the full list on the group's Facebook page.
Reclaiming Narratives talk
Black History Month Antwerp kicks off with a panel debate about the process of reclaiming history and revisioning colonial narratives with the UK-based artist Patrick Waterhouse and Otto Jungarrayi Sims, an Australian of Aboriginal descent and Black History Month organisers Aminata Ndow and Mohamed Barrie. (in English)
Black history in Brussels
Schaerbeek's Dutch-language municipal library is marking Black History Month for the first time with work from two young artists, Anne-Sophie Chioma Opara and Kavena Gomos, exploring the themes of (de)colonisation and black art. The exhibition is open all month long, with launch activities planned on the morning of Saturday 2 March including a children's book reading.
“What does freedom mean to you?” photo exhibition
This month-long exhibition at the FOMU Fotomuseum of Antwerp brings together photography and video artworks by Afro-Belgian artists that reflect on the meaning of freedom.
Though the subjects of their 19 and 20 March talks haven’t yet been announced, you can expect African-American artist Isaiah Lopaz and Kenyan theatre-maker, writer and storyteller Ogutu Muraya to deliver lectures exploring their personal relation to art as a form of resistance. (in English)
Finding Fela! movie night and dance party
Revisit this 2014 Oscar-nominated documentary about the iconic Nigerian singer Fela Kuti and dance until the wee hours to the afrobeat sounds of DJ Skillzington at Cultuurcentrum Berchem on 7 March.
Racial bias in photography workshop
Attend this 12 March workshop by the Antwerp-based photographer and visual artist Harmony Benegusenga to learn how to capture the nuance and complexity of dark skin on film. Later that day, you can listen in on a conversation between Benegusenga and Flemish filmmaker An Van Dienderen about racial bias in photography and film (in Dutch).
you want to photograph black people? better do it in the bright sun or with a spotlight...