Brussels Government adds explanatory QR codes to 'racist' murals

In the face of rising anger from residents, the Brussels Government is implementing plans to add explanatory QR codes to 'racist' murals in the centre of the city, The Guardian reports.

According to The Guardian, the €30,000 project will provide crucial historical and cultural context for all 68 murals on the famous Brussels Comic Book Route, many of which are regarded by activists and residents as embodying sexist, neo-colonialist, or even racist stereotypes.

According to a recent study by Noms Peut-Être, a feminist activist group, the majority of artists who drew the murals, as well as the overwhelming number of characters depicted on the walls, are men, while women are typically portrayed in a highly "sexualised" way.

"We reflected deeply, and we came to the conclusion that we should not remove [the murals] but explain them," said Arnaud Pinxteren, the capital's City Councillor in charge of urban renovation. He described them as a product of their era and context and highlighted "the creativity and richness of the world of comics." Pinxteren asserted that "removing them does not highlight this diversity and this history of French and Belgian comics... We must give depth to the murals."

RTBF reported last September that 30 of the murals already have QR codes attached, 15 of which link to a corresponding historical description or cultural contextualisation. According to The Guardian's more recent report, 50 explanatory texts for the 68 murals have been completed.

The latest Brussels Government initiative comes at a time when new additions to the Brussels Comic Book Route are being consciously designed to emphasise progressive themes: the latest mural, in Laeken, celebrates environmentalism and female solidarity.

"We are giving priority to female authors and characters for the new murals," Pinxteren said last July.

Construction began on The Brussels Comic Book Route back in 1991. Its original purpose was to beautify the city but it soon developed into a broader attempt to celebrate Belgian's rich comic book history.


A mural in Brussels celebrating the Belgian comic book character Spirou unveiled in 2014 © AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

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