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What’s on this week: 20-26 January

08:03 19/01/2023
New exhibitions breathe life into Belgium’s art scene, while dance, music and film also reflect an international flavour

In an age where Instagram and AI are threating to forever change our perception of images, it’s inspiring to note that photography is the subject of some of the most popular art exhibitions in Brussels. There’s an abundance of riches at PhotoBrussels Festival, a month of shows, talks and workshops. A highlight of the festival is Mirror of Self at Hangar, an exploration of the meaning of self-portraits in the age of the selfie. Also check out the Graciela Iturbide retrospective at Fondation A Stichting, which provides wonderous insights into the matriarchal Juchitan region, the Oaxaca botanical garden and more. 26 January to 26 February, across Brussels

5 Botzelaer (grens in tunnel)

Photo exhibition 236. Land(es)capes from the 20th Convoy, 2020-2022 honours the 236 Jewish deportees who bravely jumped off a train transporting them to Auschwitz. Belgian artist Jo Struyven pays tribute to the 80th anniversary of the 1943 incident in these large-format black-and-white nocturnal photos at the Jewish Museum of Belgium. The exhibition also includes two works by internationally-acclaimed Belgian artist, Luc Tuymans. Until 14 August, Rue des Minimes 21

SEE Festival, Children of Sarajevo ©Aida Begic 2

Feel the heartbeat of south-eastern Europe at Bozar’s See Festival. The programme of concerts and cinema introduces audiences to both traditional and contemporary music as well as the cinema of the Balkans, Romania, Moldova and other countries associated with the SEE region. Hear one of the world’s greatest sopranos, Angela Gheorghiu, perform with the Belgian National Orchestra, for instance, or director Aida Begic talk about her films A Ballad and Children of Sarajevo. 25-28 January, Rue Ravenstein 23

el_cantar_del_playo (c)Michiel Devijver

Now that the notions of irony and kitsch have made it cool, plancha music – dramatic love ballads recorded from the 1970s to the 1990s – has been embraced by the youngsters of Latin America. The gays, of course, were the first to the party, blasting it at clubs and making it a mainstay of drag shows. This is at the heart of Mario José Barrantes Espinoza’s El Cantar Del Playo, a musical odyssey through Costa Rica’s queer nightlife (in Spanish and English). Tacos served all night long! 21 & 22 January, De Kriekelaar, Rue Gallait 76 (Schaerbeek)

Aboriginal Signature

Women in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea reveal the layered, inner worlds of their rainforest home in Aboriginal Signature Estrangin’s new exhibition Unseen Secrets of the Mountain Rainforest: Ömie Women’s Art of Papua New Guinea. The gallery that specialises in the art of indigenous communities in Australasia shows 28 works on bark cloth by 19 artists. It’s the gallery’s second exhibition dedicated to this art tradition that for generations has passed from mother to daughter. Until 11 February (by appointment 0475.55.08.54), Rue Jules Besme 101 (Koekelberg)

Vanishing Act (c) Courtesy Thor

Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits founded Compagnie Thor more than 30 years ago, and with Vanishing Act, he takes to the stage alone, interacting with a number of elements dancers have encountered in productions throughout that time. Neon lighting, black leather bags, costumes, rope, tables – you name it – Smits will celebrate his 60th birthday manipulating his body to confront the past in wholly new ways. Rue Saint Josse 49 (Saint-Josse)

Stand by (c) Hichem Dahes - 1

Escape the dark nights and dive into the colourful world of contemporary dance at the 11th edition of D Festival. Presenting seven projects by a clutch of talented international dancers and choreographers in the capital, the annual event promotes and encourages cultural exchange between artists, whatever their origin. Performances, including Stand By (pictured) are staged in three venues in the municipalities of Etterbeek and Ixelles. 24 January-9 February, Marni, Senghor and 29@La Maison Verte


The spectacular musical comedy Mamma Mia! splashes down at Forest National. Following the huge success of the Flemish version, production companies have recreated the experience for francophones. The result is a show featuring drama, romanticism and comedy set on a Greek island and elevated by music from Swedish group ABBA, translated into French and fully adapted for families, long-term fans and newcomers to musicals in Belgium (tickets from €45). 20 & 21 January, Avenue du Globe 36 (Forest)

Bad Acid by Sam Fox US 2021

Throw everything you knew about cinema out of the window and go and experience the Courts mais Trash festival. Political, underground, independent, gore, cheap films and more, all showcase the weirdest ideas and interpretations of today’s society that never made it into the mainstream. Three competitions: National, International and the Cheapest of Film, provide audiences with the opportunity to choose their favourite unusual film from home and abroad. In addition, there’s Friday Karaoke and an After Trash Party featuring the DJ, Berenger 2000 (pictured, film Bad Acid by Sam Fox, US 2021). January 24-28, Les Riches-Claires, Rue des Riches-Claires 24  

BWV coffee

If you are looking to connect with other English-speaking women, pop along to the Monthly Clubhouse Coffee morning hosted by the Brussels Women's Club. Every fourth Tuesday of the month, members and non-members come together for complimentary coffee, tea and cake at the BWC Clubhouse. 24 January 10.00-12.00, Rue au Bois 509 (Woluwe-Saint-Pierre)

Outside Brussels 

Theodoor Rombouts, 'Card Game with Theorbo Player', ca 1635-37, (c)The National Museum, Warschau

Theodoor Rombouts had the great luck – and great misfortune – to be a contemporary of Rubens and Van Dyck. While they enjoyed a productive working relationship, only two of them would go down in history. Despite being a master of Flemish Caravaggism, Rombouts is all but forgotten. Ghent’s Fine Arts Museum is hosting the first-ever solo exhibition dedicated to the 17th-century painter, whose unconventionally colourful takes on moody Caravaggio’s trademark themes are well worth seeing. 21 January to 23 April, MSK Gent, Fernand Scribedreef 1, Ghent

Bert Kreischer

Book now: Bert Kreischer “When I was 22, I got involved with the Russian mafia, here’s how it happened.” With these words, Bert Kreischer was catapulted into stand-up stardom, unravelling a tale that is likely utterly false, but which he delivers in the authentic everyman persona his fans have grown to know and love. Hairy, potbellied and shirtless, Kreischer is one of America’s most popular comedians. This show is the only stop in Belgium on his world tour. 27 January 19.00, Elisabeth Hall, Koningin Astridplein 20, Antwerp

Ann_digitale_Sempe_mailFrench cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé (1932-2022) was renowned for his whimsical and ironic illustrations. A regular contributor to The New Yorker, his fine drawing and colourful works retain a perennial appeal. La Fondation Folon’s exhibition Sempé, infiniment vôtre is a rare opportunity to appreciate the artist’s extensive ouevre, which included the famous series Le Petit Nicolas. Until 5 March, Drève de la Ramée 6/A (La Hulpe)

Photos: PhotoBrussels Festival Hangar © Sanja Marusic; Jo Struyven, Land(es)capes from the 20th Convoy, 2020-2022 Botzelaer (Private Collection Belgium); SEE Festival, Children of Sarajevo © Aida Begic 2; El cantar del playo © Michiel Devijver; Aboriginal Signature © artists Fate Savari, Brenda Kesi and Sarah Ugibari in traditional dress, courtesy the Omie artists; Vanishing Act © Courtesy Thor; Stand by © Hichem Dahes; Theodoor Rombouts, 'Card Game with Theorbo Player', ca 1635-37, © The National Museum, Warschau


Written by Sarah Crew, Lisa Bradshaw, Louis Kernoa-Pascoe