Belgium in Brief: Giving colonial statues a special spot in Brussels?

Belgium in Brief: Giving colonial statues a special spot in Brussels?
Credit: Belga

About three years after Black Lives Matter demonstrations were held all over the world, including in Belgium, capital city Brussels is ready to give the country's colonial past a special place.

Numerous statues glorifying Belgium's colonial past are still on display in Brussels' public space, including a large one of Belgian King Leopold II on horseback positioned at Place du Trône – incidentally overlooking the Matonge neighbourhood in Ixelles, an area known for its large community of people with Congolese heritage.

While some of the statues were removed following the BLM protests, others (including the monument to Leopold II) remain. What is to be done with them has been discussed heavily, and finding an answer has become one of the tasks of a specific expert committee – colloquially called the 'Congo Committee' – on Belgium's colonial past in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi.

Now, the recommendations made by that committee have been poured into a 14-point plan, presented by Brussels State Secretary for Heritage Pascal Smet earlier this week.

Notably, however, a decision about the future of the controversial statues has yet to be made: will they be given context, or will they be placed in a depot?

"We will also look into if we should create an area, in the Cinquantenaire Park for example, where we place the statues related to the decolonisation after they have been removed from the streets," Smet said.

He added that while several statues "will certainly disappear," a dialogue with academics, citizens and those involved must first continue to find a solution acceptable to everyone.

Such a place to put these objects should "accommodate (large) colonial statues and other commemorative monuments" that have been removed from public space. "Such a place is not just a logistical infrastructure, but a symbolic public place and one of the components that will mark the postcolonial transformation of the urban monument landscape."

Good idea? What do you think? Let @Maajtee know.

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