Antwerp removes ‘woke’ portraits from Schouwburg stairwell | Abroad
with videoFour photos meant to give the stairwell of the Arenberg theater in Antwerp a “more diverse and contemporary look”, have been commissioned by the city council to be replaced with the original historical paintings. The decision causes a great stir: “They wanted to erase the image of white men.”
The four photos of the internationally renowned photographer Mous Lambarat – including a portrait of a woman wearing a headscarf – have adorned the stairwell of the Arenberg since the beginning of November, which has undergone a thorough renovation. According to the theatre, the goal was to give the interior “a more diverse and contemporary look”. “Our room was full of white old men. They don’t reflect today’s cityscape,” director Milan Rutten said last fall. Antwerp Gazette.
Four portraits of historic Antwerp personalities – including the mayor of Antwerp Filips van Marnix, the entrepreneur Gilbert van Schoonbeke and Pieter Appelmans, one of the architects of Notre-Dame Cathedral – had to give way to photographs by Lambarat.
It was against the sore leg of Luk Lemmens, member of the board of directors of cultural institutions in Antwerp. “It bothers me that people want to erase the image of white men. This is how they try to erase history under the pressure of the woke culture that a group of intellectuals adhere to. I’m opposes the rewriting of history,” said Lemmens, also a deputy for the province of Antwerp on behalf of the Flemish nationalist N-VA. Antwerp Gazette (GVA). “I understand very well that the Arenberg wants to work on diversity, but there are enough places in the theater to do so.”
Lemmens was heard by the city council of Antwerp. He decided that the photos should be removed and the original paintings should be returned. Lambarat’s photos will be moved to other places in the Arenberg. A photo of a veiled woman has already been removed and will be displayed “prominently” in the lobby. The other three photos will disappear during the Easter holidays, and will eventually be exhibited in the renovated foyer.
The Antwerp alderwoman for culture Nabilla Ait Daoud (N-VA) answered the question on Thursday on Belgian Radio 1. Erasing the past is madness. I don’t participate in this cancellation culture,” she says. “It’s not just paintings of white men that have been taken down, but historical figures who have helped make our city great.”
Ait Daoud points out that she cannot find the “awakened” Lambarat photos. “I love these portraits. They show our city in all its diversity, headscarf or not. I’m talking about a director, a civil servant in Antwerp, who has historical paintings removed himself.
For the city to intervene so drastically would be particularly bad for the management of the Arenbergs. This is one of the reasons why Milan Rutten resigned from the direction of the theater at the end of February. Other political parties in the municipality have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the intervention of the municipal council. “It’s unheard of and I’m shocked,” Tatjana Scheck, a council member of Vooruit, one of the biggest parties, told the Belgian newspaper. Scheck is also a board member of the Arenberg. “Arenberg is an independent art house and the town hall of Antwerp now intervenes in the artistic freedom of this house. This sets a dangerous precedent.
Photographer Moes Lamrabat, who works for international fashion magazines such as vogue And QG and brands like Yves Saint Laurent, is disappointed. “In Flanders, diversity continues to be debated, unlike abroad. They are not at all surprised by what is on my work,” Lamrabat told the newspaper.
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