We Cannot Work Like This
Three days in Brussels - A Report by Sint Lucas Antwerpen
31 January 2019
We started our first morning together in Brussels by joining the school strike for the climate march. Being in the presence of thousands of young people filled us with energy, inspiration and hope. Afterwards, at Rosa vzw, where students from L'École de Recherche Graphique (L’ERG), Thomas More and OpenDesignCourse (O.D.C.) had joined us, Ilse Ghekiere told us about Engagement Arts, an initiative by a group of women who are working together to end sexism in the arts. Lucile Choquet shared with us her experiences in the French-speaking collective F(s) and stressed the importance of thinking and acting truly intersectionally to avoid the pitfalls of white and cis-heteronormative feminism. We listened to accounts of the effects of anti-racist and anti-sexist activism on physical and mental health, and amongst the many important issues we discussed, we noted the importance of owning and controlling one's narrative and of constantly questioning the reproduction of power hierarchies, also in our resistance initiatives and activism.
Afterwards we walked to LeSpace, where Elli Vassalou (ODC) introduced us to a workshop on im/mobility and its links with family history and native languages. Series of dialogues in smaller groups were followed by discussion with the whole group and helped us to situate and therefore understand ourselves and others better and more deeply.
1 February 2019
On the second day, we took a tram ride to the renovated AFRICAMuseum in Tervuren, a green town outside Brussels that was sleeping under a layer of snow. We were joined by students from l’ERG and a critical exploration of the museum map and its rhetoric was followed by a troubling and painful visit to the museum. We came to realise that the museum was still designed with primarily white people and their children in mind; still inviting an encyclopaedic and thus colonial if not exotic gaze. We concluded that decolonisation cannot be 'a compromise’ that reproduces the existing and historical power hierarchy.
A meditative but loud tram ride brought us back to central Brussels, where the writer, cultural worker and activist Rachida Aziz warmly welcomed us back to LeSpace, an inclusive, intersectional and decolonising cultural space that she founded a few years ago. We had a long conversation with Rachida. She talked to us about LeSpace and its working methods, and she explored racism in art education and how to make local alliances and global networks of resistance. She also stressed the importance of collective healing and the need for safe spaces to nurture and love each other, and overcome the differences that might endanger collective resistance and liberation.
The afternoon was intense and transformative, and we concluded it with delicious Syrian food followed by the challenging performance Black Off by Ntando Cele. We went into the night with more questions than answers.
2 February 2019
We came together again the next morning for a reading group on the undercommons and the communal, initiated by Sint Lucas teacher Joachim Ben Yakoub. Students from Thomas More and L’ERG joined us for a difficult conversation on why“We Cannot Work Like This” and how we could work better. We talked about the (non)sense of wanting to change or work in institutions. Or how to be in but not of or for the institution, a question that puzzles all of us most of the time. We finished the meeting with a walk to the library to explore their decolonisation project, after which we ended our three days with an exhibition of Syrian artists at BOZAR. We shared our disappointment about the lack of institutional care and space this exhibition received, tucked away in a corner of the building without any signage, visibility or information. We longed for the warmth and honesty of LeSpace and ended our three days with a drink at Lagrange Points, the new secular Arabic bookshop in Brussels, concluding that sharing our vulnerabilities makes us stronger. We can work like this.
Written by Rabten & Petra - We Cannot Work Like This Sint Lucas Antwerpen in Brussels with Sarah, Larissa, Imane, Gilani, Rabten, Joud, Ikram, Natalia and Petra.