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What’s on this week: 21-27 February

14:45 20/02/2020
Our top picks of cultural events and activities in and around Brussels

The Anima film festival is a highlight on Europe’s animation calendar, with professionals travelling in to pitch projects to producers, take master classes and search for partners for their projects. Belgium is in fact a major player in the sector, with its stellar animation studios. But none of that concerns you, of course. All you want to know is: Are there any good movies? Lucky for you, there are many. One of the highlights is L’Extraordinaire Voyage de Marona (pictured), the story of a dog looking back on her life under many owners. With characters illustrated by the brilliant Belgian graphic novelist Brecht Evens, it is bold and colourful and comes in both French and Dutch versions. Also on the bill are I Lost My Body, a poignant look at the attempt of a severed hand to locate the young man to whom it belongs, and Les Hirondelles de Kaboul, a sombre portrayal of a couple in Taliban-controlled Kabul. There are films for all ages, and subtitles vary. 21 February to 1 March, Flagey (Ixelles) & Palace

While Flanders and Wallonia host big carnival events this weekend (see below), Brussels’ Venetian Parade takes places a bit later, on 29 February. Before that, though, several groups and venues get into the swing of the Mardi Gras celebration. The people of Antitapas are throwing a Carnival Night party with live music and DJ sets – enter the costume contest to really get into the swing of things. Over in the Flagey neighbourhood, Carnaval du Monde welcomes families all afternoon for a parade, entertainment and snacks. And leave it to the Museum of Fantastic Art to host a Carnival of Tarkham’s Witches. Despite the name, it is also open to all ages. Across Brussels

Stop by the Square for the free show Raphael: An Impossible Exhibition. Forty-five life-size prints by the master of the Italian Renaissance are on show, the originals of which would be ‘impossible’ to see anywhere in one place. Until 14 March, Mont des Arts

Zaiko Langa Langa

Afropolitan is an exploration, celebration and reflection on the culture and societies created by people with African roots, both in Belgium and around the world. This year’s theme is Heroes and Heroines, a look at the names – big and small – that have inspired contemporaries and future generations. The programme is extremely varied with concerts, film, fashion, dance and debates. Check out Zaiko Langa Langa (pictured), which  revolutionised African pop music, and documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, preceded by a talk with African-American writers. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 28 February to 1 March, Bozar, Rue Ravenstein 23

Human figures go through the motions of carrying out their jobs. A baker, a town crier, a potter, a weaver – their repetitive motions suggest inertia and apathy. And frankly, they are a little creepy. Rightfully so, say Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, the artists who represented Belgium at last year’s Venice Biennale. Mondo Cane, billed as a ‘Contemporary Museum of Folk Art’, represents an “old patriarchal ‘safe’ society, with rules that are no longer valid”. Until 24 May, Bozar, Rue Ravenstein 23

Women didn’t have the right to vote in Belgium until 1948, one of the last European countries to finally change the law. It has been sluggish ever since at bringing the societal rights and privileges of women in line with men legally but mostly socially. The free exhibition Liberating Women and Changing the World at Brussels’ local history museum shows how 1970s women took to the streets to demand that Belgium shake off the mantel of patriarchy. Until 24 May, BELvue Museum, Place des Palais 7

Comic Con Brussels

Celebrate all things comic book at the annual Comic Con Brussels. Sure, you can browse and buy local and international comic strip books and albums old and new to your heart’s content, but there are also stands bursting with collectibles, movies, clothes, toys and all kinds of gadgets. The special guests are always a hoot – among them this year are Holly Marie Combs, aka Piper in Charmed and Ella in Pretty Little Liars, and Sean Astin, world famous for his role as the fearlessly loyal Sam in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are talks, workshops, gaming sessions, cosplay and more. 22-23 February, Tour & Taxis, Avenue du Port 86

The humble Ernesto works in an agency that identifies people who have gone missing during the Guatemalan civil war. His own father is among them, and he soon discovers his part in a conflict that terrorised Mayan villages for more than three decades. Nuestra Madras (Our Mothers) is the feature film debut of César Díaz, a Guatemalan director living in Belgium. If you missed its run in cinemas last year, La Vénerie is offering this second chance to see the gripping drama about the effects of war on women and on generations to come. 26 February 18.00 & 20.30, Rue Gratès 3 (Watermael-Boitsfort)

Before the transformation of Kanal Centre Pompidou begins in earnest, you are invited to Demolition Lab, where you will be encouraged to participate in the dismantling of the Citroën garages as you tag, dance, demolish and upcycle to your heart’s content. Workshops help you get started, and the Freestyle Dance Lab also invite you to join in. Entrance is free all day. 22 February 12.00-18.00, enter at Quai de Willebroeck 6

Book now: Tickets went on sale this week for the Queen Elisabeth Competition, which this year puts young pianists on stage. Tickets are available for the entire competition, including the coveted final on 30 May and the Closing Concert on 18 June, featuring the top three laureates. You can also buy a pass that includes several evenings. But buy now. Competition 4-30 May, laureate concerts 16 and 18 June, Flagey (Ixelles) & Bozar

Haguètes at Malmedy Carnival


It’s Carnival weekend in Belgium, with several cities offering stand-out parades, folkloric costumes, special ceremonies and endless joviality. In Wallonia, the most famous carnival celebrations can be found in Binche and Malmedy. In the former, the famous character Gilles take to the streets in striped costumes, masks and wooden shoes, changing into more elaborate costumes for the big event – throwing oranges to (sometimes at) the dense crowds of people. In the latter, the long-nosed figures are called Haguètes, and they do their famous dance before the parade, in which 1,500 groups take part. In Flanders, the biggest carnival celebration by far is Aalst, where several niche parades take place, including the big one on Sunday with extremely creative – and provocative – floats. While Binche is Unesco protected, Aalst lost that designation last year due to a float that depicted broad stereotypes of Jewish men. Organisers say they will do something similar this year, so yeah, there’s that. 22-25 February, across Belgium

Photos, from top: ©Le Parc Distribution; courtesy Bozar; courtesy Uit in Vlaanderen; ©Nicolas Lambert/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw