From colonialism to critical beats
Brussels is a place where people come and go. You grow attached to people, and then as suddenly as they appeared in your life, they disappear again. This week i’ve had to say goodbye to no less than three of those people. It affects me more than I would like to.
Good thing then that last Saturday I had the chance to spend the afternoon with two of them: Nadim the Tintinologist from California, who is now in Cairo, and Kaija-Luisa, the Estonian soon to be master of Urban studies, who left for Tilburg yesterday. We decided to visit the Royal Museum for Central Africa, in the Brussels suburb of Tervuren, because:
- the tram ride there through the Zoniënforest makes for a nice trip;
- i hadn’t seen the displays with stuffed animals of the savannah since childhood;
- and because Nadim is obsessed with all things colonial.
Colonialism, you get a lot of that in Tervuren. The man responsible for building the palace that houses the museum (with surrounding gardens - i like to call Tervuren the “Versailles of Brussels”, though that’s probably a bit optimistic), as well as many of the other grand buildings and boulevards of Brussels, is Leopold II, the King with the biggest beard ever of all our kings. Now, beards are cool, but Leopold II, in retrospect, probably wasn’t so much. To fund all the opulent 19th century refurbishings of Brussels, he literally ransacked the whole of Congo, and cruelty was the name of the game.
Funny to see how they are trying to work around this in the museum, which was once basically a propaganda instrument of colonialism. But the critical voice is there in the current exhibit (though maybe not as condemning as some would like it to be). And the statue of Leopold II has been put in a dark corner in one of the smaller, dilmy lit hallways. They’d probably like to get rid of it all together, but probably they can’t just yet. As we browsed through the museum guestbook, we found this pretty sweet comment: “ROFL @ COLONIALISM”.
Nadim went crazy with excitement at seeing all this. Personally, i was really surprised to learn that the Azores were colonised by merchants of Bruges as from 1439 onwards, and were once known as “the Flemish Islands”. We all enjoyed the Pimp Your Paddle colouring stand for kids in the speficic Congo river exhibition.
Other than that, the Royal Museum for Central Africa is still pretty much an old school style museum, and some of the halls still look more or less identical to the way they looked when the museum opened 100 years ago in 1910: glass cases galore, with hundreds of artifacts and stuffed animals (the giraffe! the elephant! the crocodiles! the cheetahs devouring a gazelle! lots of freaky bugs, butterflies and creepy crawlers!). And the dugout canoe was still gigantic.
FFWD: tram ride back to Flagey through vile wet weather, with windows fogging up so you can’t see where you actually are »» pizza at Mama Roma »» one beer too many at café Murmure (Moinette FTW) »» a handful of frites with Brazil sauce on a still soaking wet place Flagey »» 00:00 »» a Villo ride downtown »» fish curry and Polish hangout at Greg’s »» dancing in Café Central.
It’s not that nice a bar but convenient enough if you want to dance somewhere without having to pay cover charge. Eve teasing and cock blocking are the mots de rigueur. At some point, the DJ drops a pretty cool tune, and i do the goofiest thing ever: I asked what he was playing.
And I’m glad I did, so now I can share it with you.
Which then reminded me of a track by that other beatmeister, Flying Lotus. Mind you, I don’t like everything he does, but this one is just spot on.
Sunset at 17:24 today? Boooooooo.