In Brussels, the Leopold II tunnel will officially change name to the ‘Annie Cordy tunnel’ on Sunday, with festivities to mark the occasion.
The move comes as part of a plan to feminise and decolonise public space in Belgium. Annie Cordy was a popular Belgian actress and singer who died in September 2020. She was chosen by the public between 15 candidates in order to feminise public areas.
At 12:00, the official inauguration kicks off followed by a solidarity march to benefit Pink Ribbon, a non-profit that raises awareness about breast cancer. At 15:00 a tribute to the Belgian singer will take place. Meanwhile, food trucks will be dispersed in the area for anyone needing a snack.
Decolonising public areas
The tunnel’s name change is a step towards decolonising public areas and creating greater awareness. A next step might be a museum dedicated to Belgium’s colonial past at Lever House in the centre of Brussels.
Lever House came from the name of two English industrialists who obtained permission from the Belgian government to exploit Congolese palm forests and employed thousands of Congolese workers who were poorly treated. Their house is a celebration of their exploitation of Congo.
After William Lever died in 1925, Lever House merged with the Dutch company Margarine Union and became Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company.
The building now belongs to the Brussels-Wallonia Federation. It is unclear what they want to do with it, although the Brussels region has proposed a museum.
“One could imagine creating a museum or a centre for documentation and research on colonization and decolonization there. This would make it possible to keep this heritage while contextualising it,” said Pascal Smet, Secretary of State in charge of Town Planning and Heritage.