Belgian performer to cycle to Congo dressed as King Leopold II to 'ask forgiveness'

Belgian performer to cycle to Congo dressed as King Leopold II to 'ask forgiveness'
Geert Beullens, known for his impersonations of Flemish nationalist Bart De Weever, will impersonate King Leopold II and cycle to Congo "for forgiveness." Credit: BDW Facebook/Wikimedia Commons

A Belgian performer known for impersonating Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever will embark on a months-long cycling trip to Congo, this time impersonating King Leopold II, to ask forgiveness for colonisation.

Performer Geert Beullens intends to make his journey into a documentary series as well as squeeze a theatre performance and a photo series out of it, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

Beullens, who often impersonates the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) leader and Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever, will this time dress up as Belgium's coloniser monarch King Leopold II.

Leopold II declared himself sole owner and ruler of the Congo Free State in the late 1800s, extracting resources from the colonised territory for his personal gain.

"For a long time, I wonder if it would matter if the Belgians said sorry," Beullens told the Flemish daily. "And since the royal family never officially apologised, I will just do it."

The cycling trip is expected to last for around eight months and will see Beullens set off from a brasserie in southern Antwerp named Entrepôt du Congo at the start of 2021.

"According to experienced cyclists, I should calculate half a year, but I have given myself two months' more time," the performer said.

His journey will see him arrive in the capital Kinshasa, in a trip with which he aims to offer a different approach to the issue of colonisation, which remains a thorny subject in Belgium.

"I want to show that colonialism can also be approached in a different way, from a humorous perspective," Beullens told Het Nieuwsblad.

Belgium's rule over the Congo is infamous due to the extensive accounts and records of forced labour and systemic brutality which characterised it, with millions estimated to have died as a result of the country's colonial occupation.

It remains unclear which form Beullens' apology will take once he completes his months-long trip, which he also said would offer him a chance to go back to his hometown.

"Once in Congo, I want to visit some important places of colonisation," he said. "My hometown is also on the schedule because I have not been there since my youth."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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