Art & Pop Culture

Comics:

In Belgium alone, they produce approximately 30 million copies of comic strip books yearly. 75% of the comic books that they produce are exported to different countries. The Belgian author Georges Remi, has sold more than 200 million copies of his comic strip book series The Tintin. In his comic book series, he has the main character Tintin, along with his friends and his loyal pet dog Snowy, along with him during their adventures. In the adventures of Tintin, none of them age, like many of the comic books that are produced in Belgium and worldwide.

There are other comic books such as Lucky Luke that has stories that are written into comics. Many of the comics that arise from the books turn into television series and computer games.

Not only are there stories that have to due with adventures, but there are comic book stories that have to do with space. In the series, Thorgal, the main character is born from the space and is sent to the planet Earth in order to decide whether or not to invade the planet.

Stories like these are widely enjoyed by Belgians as much as the international audience that correlates.

Carnivals/Festivals:

Every city in Belgium has their own festival or carnival that takes time of preparations. However, there are two big festivals that occur in Belgium. One is the three day carnival at Binche and the seond one is the procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges. The first carnival is held just before the season of Lent, where as the second big Festival occurs in May. Many of the festivals that occur in Belgium include events such is food, music, dance, and friendly competitions.

Carnival of Binche:

Every year in February, three days before Lent, the small town of Binche hosts their famous carnival. The carnival of Binche is one of the most famous carnivals in the world, and is the most popular carnival that is hosted in Belgium. It is hosted in the city of Binche, where is it mostly French-speaking.

The Carnival of Binche is Belgium’s most popular carnival as it has people from all over the world come to the small city of 30,000 residents to enjoy the three day festivities. The carnival has Christian roots, coming from the idea of having one last celebration before partaking the traditions of Lent. Lent comes with the continuous praying and fasting of Lent, so having the carnival three days before actual Lent allows people to blow off some steam before diving head first into the traditions of Lent. Many people believe that the Carnival has been celebrated as early as the 15 or 16 century, whereas others believe it could have been earlier that these festivities have been occurring.

However, it was not until the 2000’s that the Carnival really received international awareness. That early nineteenth century is when it became more modernized, where costumes and accessories were added into its programming.

The three days before Lent is when the major events for the Carnival of Binche occurs, but little events such as praying or dancing occurs as soon as 49 days before Lent actually begins. For the weeks before the huge events, there are dances and ceremonies that help prepare for the event. Many people travel to the city in order to participate.

The three main days of the Carnival of Binche, occurs on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, which are also known as the fatty days. The carnival always occurs that Sunday that precedes Lent.

On Sunday at 10 a.m., also known as “Fat Sunday” the parade begins. It has a large group of people dressed in various outfits and they walk around. Many outfits include dressing in traditional clothing or costumes that relate to animals or popular culture in Belgium. Many people dress up as Gilles, that are men or boys that wear an outfit that consists of red and black clothing along with feather hats and masks. Each mask has a mustache and glasses that go along with it. Approximately, 1,000 people participate in the dressing up and walking in the parade.

The Monday (also known as Fat Monday) that follows Fat Sunday, the men and young boys that dressed up as Gilles in the previous parade now dance in the streets of the city. Music is performed from organ players and there are other activities that coincide with this dance. There are confetti battles that people take part of, which also let people of all ages participate. Not only that, but the “circle of friendship” takes place on Fat Monday. The ending for Fat Monday is a fireworks show, but not bigger than the one that occurs on Fat Tuesday.

Fat Tuesday is the day in which the carnival is the most anticipated. That Tuesday, the costumes of the Gilles is worn all day. Many begin as early as 4am to start eating breakfast and going to perform in the parade. Many of them dance in the parade and the Pierrots, join in on the parade. The Mardi Gras section of the carnival occurs shortly after the dance routine, approximately at 3 pm. The rest of the day is spent doing other activities and the night is ended with fireworks.

Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges:

Each year, the city of Bruges has a parade that occurs approximately forth days after Easter occurs. The parade is called the Procession of the Holy Blood, which is also known as “The Most Beautiful Day in Bruges.” It’s origin dates as early as the thirteenth century from where the relic came to Bruges and celebrated the event. It appears that the festivities occurred because after the Second Crusade, dried blood turns into moisture again. Therefore, as a way to celebrate the dried blood into wet blood, they celebrate this each year 40 days after Easter.

The Procession of the Holy Blood consists of the citizens of Bruges taking part of a parade around what is appears to be the blood of Jesus Christ. Approximately 30,000 to 40,000 people come each Spring to see these events occur. These do not take into consideration the international audience that comes to watch the holy parade. The parade has become protected by the UNESCO.

During the parade, more than 3,000 people march in the parade and are dressed up in costumes and popular characters. There are various amount of stories from the Bible that are reenacted that day. For example, there are people dressed up as pilgrims and carry babies in mengaries, and various people dressed from camels to donkeys.

Not only do reanactions occur, but many church officials walk in the parade. Afterwards, the actual blood that is being celebrated is passed around the parade audience and at that point, everyone in the audience becomes silent and is in solemn awe of the Blood of Christ.

The parade is the main attraction because there are various floats, dances, singing, bands, that allow for a large entertainment. At the end of the parade, there is a prayer ceremony. Because Belgium is such a diverse country with two “unofficial” languages, the prayer ceremony is performed in multiple languages in order for everyone to partake in this prayer. The city of Bruges is known for this parade and has gained international awareness, for which is why the Procession of the Holy Blood has gained more popularity over the recent ages.

Museums in Belgium:

If you cannot attend the carnival of Binche, there is the Museum of Carnival and Masks. Inside the museum, there are masks and carnival items from the Carnival of Binche and other carnivals that are hosted around the world.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts:

Belgium has many museums all over the country. The museums give insight to many fields that are of Belgian interests. These fields include art, folklore, history, STEM, and highlight the culture of Belgium.

The capital of Belgium, Brussels, along has more than 80 museums. One of Brussels biggest attractions which was founded more than two centuries ago is the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, also known as the Musée royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique or Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van Belgie.

Every once in a while, there are traveling exhibitions that are in the gallery of the museum. Many of the most popular touring exhibitions are featured in the museum, therefore, one should ensure they go on the website and see which are in the museum during your visit to Brussels, Belgium.

The Museum itself is two art museums that are in the same building and has a connection with another museum that will open soon. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts holds to its name by the mere fact that it holds around 20,000 paintings, drawings and fine sculptures. Many of the most famous art pieces will be found there, such as Bosch, Rubens, and Magritte. There are six different art collections in the Museum, which is a reason why to put it as a priority when visiting Belgium. The Museum is close to Grand Place, which allows on to visit various popular places in Brussels. Not only does the Museum hold art pieces, but since Belgium is popular for its beer, there is a Brewery (known as a Brasserie), a Café, and a souvenir shop.

Inside the museum, each floor hosts a different section of art. In the top floors of the Museum, the collections that are called “The Ancient Art Museum of Brussels” has the famous Flemish artists. The bottom/underground floors has more recent (20th century and 21st century) art collections. There are eight floors that are underground, so it is not just one story that holds various art. Many of the collections that are inside the Museum have comic strips that are highly valued in Belgium. Many of the popular culture in Belgium revolves around comic strips, so going to the museum allows one to visit and view more in depth the culture.

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts is closed on January 1, 2, May 1, November 1,11 and December 25. There is a fee to enter into the Museum, but it is well worth the investment. Other than the specified days, the Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.

Art in Belgium:

Manneken-Pis:

In the heart of Brussels, During the fifteenth century, the well known Manneken-Pis statue was a fountain that was essential to providing water to all residents of Brussels and all of Belgium. To a certain point, the water system was distributed to all of Europe as well.

Manneken-Pis is a statue of a young boy urinating into a fountain.

However, the Mannaken-Pis statue has become even more important in recent times. It has become a form of embodiment of the Belgian culture and ideologies. Manneken-Pis accurately represents Belgians because it shows him as a rebellious person in the heart of the country. One of the reasons that the statue is highly valued because when Brussels was bombed in 1695, it was one of the only surviving monuments during the time.

Manneken-Pis is highly appreciated as they dress him in seasonal and special occasions. Dating from the eighteenth century, he would be dressed four times a year. Now, there are 23 wardrobe changes that are scheduled through all the year. To this date, he has been changed more than 900 times. The Museum of the City of Brussels is one of the few people who do change the statue. Even visitors of Brussels have a voice of what to dress the boy in next, through a website. Examples of Manneken-Pis dressed up include Santa Claus, Easter dressing, etc.

There can be a request to change the outfit of the young boy; however, the request must be written and sent to the mayor of Brussels. After careful consideration, it is sent to the representatives of the City of Brussels to ensure that it accurately represents the people of the city. However, not every outfit is deemed worthy or allowed to be on Manneken-Pis. For example, the costumes cannot have a religious connotation, provide advertising to a business or idea, or be political involved in any way. After the above mentioned approve of the new costume, there is a ceremony that is prepared and allows people to come celebrate the dressing of Manneken-Pis. On occasions, the boy allow for free beer or other drinks. The change of clothing once switched is put inside the Museum of the City of Brussels.

References:
http://www.frommers.com/destinations/belgium/353894
http://www.123independenceday.com/belgium/art-and-culture.html
http://www.destination360.com/europe/belgium/carnival-of-binche
http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-procession-of-the-holy-blood
http://www.unesco.org/archives/multimedia/?s=films_details&pg=33&id=317
https://www.expedia.com/Royal-Museums-Of-Fine-Arts-Of-Belgium-Brussels.d6070961.Vacation-Attraction
http://www.brussels.info/museum-fine-arts/
http://www.brussels.be/artdet.cfm/4328

-Elizabeth Morales