Cultural Compass: Congolese collection, finals for violin, speciality paper and more

Exhibitions, music, architecture, books, festivals… this is Belga English's pick of cultural activities in Flanders and Brussels, published every Sunday.

Antwerp’s MAS has an eclectic collection ranging from ship models to pieces from pre-Colombian America up through the history of Pride in Belgium. Every floor of the building encapsulates a different theme with art to reflect it. The museum’s lesser-known collection of nearly 5,000 cultural objects from the DR Congo will finally begin to emerge starting 28 May. These pieces retrace the country's story from before the colonial period to the present day. Through an investigation between MAS researchers, experts from the DR Congo and the Belgo-Congolese diaspora, the museum is working to understand how these artefacts found their way to Antwerp.

Researchers at MAS are aiming to answer questions such as: "How did cultural objects disappear from Congolese communities? Did this happen legitimately or was it accompanied by violence or coercion? And what do they mean to them today?” ​

One of the most fascinating aspects of the project is the collaboration with researchers in the DRC, led by Prof Dr Donatien Dibwe dia Mwembu of the University of Lubumbashi. They collected new oral testimonies about the objects. By juxtaposing these Congolese memories with information from archives and historical publications, the MAS gained a deeper insight into the long history of these artefacts. This exhibition runs until 13 October.


The Queen Elisabeth Competition for violin heads towards its thrilling grand finale this week as the 12 finalists take to the stage of Bozar in Brussels for their big finish. Accompanied by the Belgian National Orchestra, each finalist will perform a concerto of their own choice and the mandatory work Variations Litaniques, written specifically for this concert by Thierry Esaich.

The finalists spent a week in isolation in the Queen Elisabeth Chapel in Waterloo where they did not have phones or access to the outside world. During their seven-day retreat, the musicians spent time mastering the new piece in time for its world premiere on Monday evening.

The young violinists who hail from Korea, the US, Ukraine, Japan and Kazakhstan will perform from 27 May until 1 June. They receive their rankings and prizes after midnight of the final performance. After the proclamation, the laureates will continue to give concerts until mid-June at Bozar.

American finalist Elli Choi performs in the semi-final © PHOTO QUEEN ELISABETH COMPETITION

Another music event in Brussels with a slightly different tone is soprano Sarah Defrise’s one-woman show entitled I Hate New Music. Voted Young Musician of the Year by the Belgian Music Press Union in 2021, Defrise presents a look at the world of contemporary music through a tour-de-force of humour, vocal fireworks and even a few “orgasmic outbursts”. She will perform this love letter to music enthusiasts at the Théâtre des Martyrs on 31 May and 2, 4 and 6 June.

The Photo Museum Antwerp (FOMU) presents its free exhibition Old Paper? Photo Paper from the Gevaert Archive from 31 May until 18 August. Between 1894 and 1964, the Belgian company Gevaert produced photo paper that was used all over the world. In 2015, FOMU obtained the complete company archive, which contains more than 377 paper types and the largest collection of photo paper in Europe.

Historical Collection Agfa-Gevaert, Advertising Gevaert photo paper ©PHOTO COLLECTION FOMU
Historical Collection Agfa-Gevaert, Advertising Gevaert photo paper ©PHOTO COLLECTION FOMU

Different types of photo paper, packaging and international promotional material give visitors a unique look at photography in the 20th century. Each paper has a unique texture, gloss, colour and thickness. Gevaert's photo paper remains a source of inspiration for international artists. Photographer Alison Rossiter from New York started working with a roll of expired Gevaluxe Velours photo paper. FOMU owns one of her works and is exhibiting it for the first time in this exhibition.

Additional cultural coverage from Belga this week includes: Brussels becomes a stage for annual free Jazz Week and Brussels crowns comic strip culture as intangible cultural heritage

​​Ongoing events

Josef and Anni Albers
​Knights of the Golden Fleece​
​​​Afrika Film Festival ​
​​​Jean-Michel Folon, A Journey in Brussels​​​​​
​​​​Jef Verheyen: Window on Infinity KMSKA​​​​​
​Paul Harbutt, Museum De Reede​​​​​

​Rodin: A Modern Renaissance




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